Preventing Child Maltreatment with Economic Supports Despite the wealth of evidence that family income and poverty status are correlated with child maltreatment, it is unknown whether such economic factors play a causal role with regard to child abuse and neglect. This research experimentally tests the impact of a primary prevention initiative called Project GAIN (Getting Access to Income Now) on reducing rates of child protective services (CPS) events and parent- reported indicators of child maltreatment in a high risk population. Project GAIN is designed to prevent child abuse and neglect by improving family economic resources and reducing financial stressors. Key features of Project GAIN include an assessment of families' self-identified economic needs, a comprehensive eligibility assessment for an array of public and private economic supports and assistance accessing these resources, assistance with financial decision-making, and (in some cases) access to one-time emergency cash supplements to alleviate immediate financial stressors. The target population is families who have been reported to and investigated by CPS in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but for whom no evidence of maltreatment or imminent maltreatment risk was found. This group of families is deflected from CPS, but past research has shown that they have a high risk of being re-reported to CPS, often with elevated situations of risk. Approximately 800 families will be randomly assigned to either a control or treatment group and will be administered a survey interview at baseline and again 12 months later. The proposed research activities will support the analysis of survey data, and the collection of a comprehensive array of state administrative data on earnings, unemployment benefits, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, child support, child care subsidies, Medicaid receipt, and interactions with CPS over a 24-month period. A cost-benefit analysis of Project GAIN will also be conducted. Child maltreatment is a long-standing public health problem that is estimated to affect over 1 in 10 U.S. children over the course of childhood. The reduction of nonfatal child maltreatment is a stated objective of Healthy People 2020 (IVP 38). The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council recently recommended targeting innovative research on the causes and consequences of child abuse and neglect as part of its National Agenda for Child Abuse and Neglect Research. Despite significant gains over the past two decades in understanding the correlates of child maltreatment, relatively little progress has been made in understanding its causes. The present study will contribute to closing this gap in the research base by attempting to isolate the causal impact of an economic support intervention on child maltreatment prevention. This study will, for the first time, be able to answer the question of how much child maltreatment prevention can be achieved by intervening only around economic needs in a select high-risk population.

Public Health Relevance

This research experimentally examines the impact of a primary prevention initiative to reduce child maltreatment through enhancing the economic resources of at-risk families. Results from this evaluation will inform public health knowledge about the benefit of addressing family economic needs in the context of child maltreatment prevention activities.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZCE1-JXS (01))
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University of Wisconsin Madison
Social Sciences
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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