Journal Article Identifies Research Gaps to Strengthen Child Welfare

Posted May 16, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A young father smiles while standing outside with his two children. One toddler-aged child is in front of him, while his younger child perches on his shoulders.

An arti­cle recent­ly pub­lished in the jour­nal Chil­dren and Youth Ser­vices Review dis­cuss­es the find­ings of an Urban Insti­tute project iden­ti­fy­ing gaps in child wel­fare research. The project, fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, Casey Fam­i­ly Pro­grams and the William T. Grant Foun­da­tion, sur­veyed 300 child wel­fare researchers and con­stituents of the sys­tem across the coun­try ― includ­ing birth fam­i­lies, fos­ter par­ents and young adults for­mer­ly in fos­ter care.

The peer-reviewed arti­cle makes the case that fill­ing the research gaps iden­ti­fied by those who respond­ed can help pub­lic agen­cies more effec­tive­ly meet the needs of the peo­ple they serve — par­tic­u­lar­ly chil­dren and youth of col­or, who are over­rep­re­sent­ed in the child wel­fare system.

Ques­tions and Answers About Gaps

When asked about evi­dence gaps that pre­vent child wel­fare sys­tems from being more effec­tive, respon­dents most often iden­ti­fied agency poli­cies and rules (63%); tools for deci­sion-mak­ing (63%); child wel­fare prac­tices (62%); and fed­er­al and state pol­i­cy (62%).

The respon­dents’ pri­or­i­ty areas for research fund­ing were: pre­ven­tion of entry into fos­ter care (48%); pre­ven­tion of abuse and neglect (35%); dynam­ics that affect the child wel­fare work­force (33%); and cross-sys­tem col­lab­o­ra­tion (29%).

Respon­dents’ com­ments about agency reform reflect the need for proven strate­gies that pro­mote cross-sys­tem col­lab­o­ra­tion — for exam­ple, part­ner­ships with employ­ment and hous­ing sys­tems to ensure par­ents have sta­ble jobs and homes — and com­mu­ni­ca­tion across child wel­fare stake­hold­er groups.

Evi­dence-based Pro­grams for Child Welfare

Alli­son Holmes, a co-author of the arti­cle and a senior research asso­ciate with the Casey Foun­da­tion, not­ed that respon­dents select­ed dif­fer­ent key evi­dence gaps and fund­ing pri­or­i­ties — a mis­align­ment that may reflect a need to use exist­ing research evi­dence dif­fer­ent­ly and to coor­di­nate the use of effec­tive pro­grams across sec­tors and at larg­er scale to pre­vent child wel­fare sys­tem involvement.

This study high­lights the need to build and use evi­dence about what works in child wel­fare with all mem­bers of child wel­fare com­mu­ni­ty to ensure we’re ask­ing the right ques­tions for fam­i­lies and for prac­ti­tion­ers to use,” says Holmes. The Casey Foun­da­tion and oth­er fun­ders plan to use the study to devel­op a respon­sive and impact­ful child wel­fare research agenda.”

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