Policy & Practice | Spring 2023

ECONOMIC SUPPORTS continued from page 13

the White House National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health is about improving food access and afford ability. Increasing the minimum wage and expanding access to Medicaid are identified as two supporting strategies, and there is evidence that each of these reduces risk of involvement with the child welfare system. Yasmin: We saw during the COVID-19 pandemic what a compre hensive federal response could look like, and we now have evidence of its positive impact. There was cash assistance, enhanced unemployment benefits, and reduced restrictions on SNAP and TANF. While the pandemic brought on a new set of material hard ships amid widespread economic uncertainty, research now demon strates that federal policies, like the enhanced CTC, reduced child poverty, improved financial stability, alleviated distress, and increased food security. At a time of incredible instability, we were able to help stabilize families. Clare: Both employment and tax policies like paid family leave and the EITC and CTC are policy proposals that, based on the evidence we have, increase access to economic supports for a family and are associated with reduced risk of child welfare involvement. We see across a whole host of policies that when you expand them either through state- or federal-level action, reducing abuse and neglect is possible. Child abuse and neglect are prevantable, solvable problems. There are policy solutions available, and when you look at the evidence of ECS, many provide a pathway forward. Reference Notes 1. Puls, H. T., Hall, M., Anderst, J. D., Gurley, T., Perrin, J., & Chung, P. J. (2021). State

Clare: I would start with a state-level assessment of policies across sectors with an eye toward understanding that upstream policies have downstream child welfare–related implications. Assess which policies likely contribute to increased risk for involvement with child welfare and create a policy roadmap over the next three years to collectively advance the most impor tant and viable policy changes that likely contribute to reduced risk of involvement with child welfare. States can share the evidence from the Chapin Hall policy brief noted above and the source research with peers, con stituents, advocacy groups, and parents and youth with lived experience—inside and upstream of child welfare—who have been supported by ECS policies. There’s an enormous opportunity to increase awareness that when parents are enabled to meet the basic needs of their families, children are safer. Yasmin: Community and parent leadership is important. Parents know what they need. A recent survey (see https://bit.ly/44iyseq) from the Stanford Center on Early Childhood asked parents with young children what sources of support their families rely on and they said government assistance, employer support, and family and com munity resources have the most impact. Ask parents and communities, “What do you need?” Share power and leadership to point the way forward. Adrian: What are the opportunities to advance the use of ECS nationally to reduce involvement with child welfare? Clare: There are several state and federal policy proposals directly related to ECS for families, and opportunities exist to better connect the dots between these policies and the evidence of reductions in child maltreatment and child welfare system involvement. It’s a missing link that I think could better inform the national dialogue about policy choices. For example, I don’t think the Child Tax Credit (CTC) debate included much of this evidence. Separately, the first pillar of

Adrian: How do upstream supports like the expanded Medicaid coverage, increased minimum wage, paid family leave, and child allowance intersect with race equity strategies? Clare: We know that, due to systemic inequities and discrimina tion, accumulation of wealth is much lower for families of color, so there isn’t a lot of buffer there against economic shocks, which increases risk of child welfare system involvement. For families of color, we also see more vola tility in income over time, which is an additional risk factor. It is important to look at the broader macro-economic context and historical human services policy framework regarding race— which in many instances is designed to limit access to capital—to understand what’s increasing risk for families of color. New studies suggest that pro viding resources to families of color has a differential effect. For example, Pac and colleagues find that, through a simulation of the antipoverty packages identified in A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty, implementation would lead to a greater decrease in child protection investigations for Black children compared to others. 2 Adrian: Which challenges surfaced when prompting our learning com munity state teams to brainstorm how to leverage ECS? Yasmin: We heard from states that there is a need to increase outreach efforts and make resources more acces sible. Our systems can, and must, work better for people. There is a low uptake of many public supportive programs for which people are eligible, particularly the EITC, often because of administra tive burdens that make it difficult and time-consuming for people to access supports. States strategized about ways to measure uptake and reach as a reflection of their own practice. Adrian: What advice do you have for an agency or group of stakeholders to begin operationalizing the research on ECS and their links to child welfare involvement?

spending on public benefit programs and child maltreatment. Pediatrics, 148 (5). https://doi.org/10.1542/ peds.2021-050685

2. Pac, J., Collyer, S., Berger, L., O'Brien, K., Parker, E., Pecora, P.,...Wimer, C. (2023). The effects of child poverty reductions on child protective services involvement. Social Service Review, 97 (1). https://doi.org/10.1086/723219

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