Has the US Child Welfare System Become an Informal Income Maintenance Programme? A Literature Review

Aislinn Conrad, Casey Gamboni, Victoria Johnson, Armeda Stevenson Wojciak, Megan Ronnenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Anti-poverty policies and income maintenance programmes aim to reduce poverty and income inequality, yet rates of poverty and income inequality have remained stable or increased in 20 of 29 developed nations. Although poverty and income inequality have increased in the USA, the depth and reach of income maintenance programmes have eroded, placing undue strain on other societal systems like education and child welfare. The burden of poverty on child welfare is troubling given the strong association between poverty and child welfare involvement. We conducted a literature review to examine the extent to which the US child welfare system acts as an informal income maintenance programme. Three interrelated research questions were explored: (a) How and when, and under what circumstances, does the US child welfare system provide families with cash and in-kind transfers, that is, income, food, shelter and durable goods? (b) Which cash and in-kind transfers are most common in the US child welfare system? (c) How do cash and in-kind transfers impact families in the child welfare system? Our review yielded eight articles. These articles indicated that cash and in-kind transfers improve programme retention and reduce child welfare involvement. Implications for research, policy and practice are discussed. ‘We conducted a literature review to examine the extent to which the US child welfare system acts as an informal income maintenance programme’. Key Practitioner Messages: US child welfare programmes offer cash and in-kind transfers similar to those provided in centralised income maintenance programmes. Cash and in-kind transfers like food, housing and strollers reduce child welfare involvement and increase programme retention. Conditional cash transfers are cash incentives that boost recruitment and retention in parenting programmes. Even inexpensive material support like donated clothing improve family and programme outcomes in the child welfare system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalChild Abuse Review
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • cash transfers
  • child maltreatment
  • child welfare
  • in-kind transfers
  • poverty

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