Publications


Mar 2020 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Children’s Relationships with Birth Parents when Children are in Out-of- Home Care: Findings from the 2017 Illinois Child Well-Being Study

Ted Cross, Steve Tran, and Aide Hernandez

Most children in out-of-home care because of child maltreatment remain attached to their birth parents despite the abuse or neglect they have suffered from them. This research brief reports on relationships with birth parents for children in out-of- home care through the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), using data from the 2017 Illinois Child Well-Being Study. Contact with birth parents was a positive experience for many children in out-of-home care, but not enough children had the positive contact with birth parents they needed.

Mar 2020 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Resilience of Children in DCFS Care: Findings from 2017 Illinois Child Well-Being Study

Ted Cross, Aide Hernandez, and Steve Tran

Disproportionate percentages of children in out-of-home care have poor outcomes on child development, health, behavioral health, and education. Yet some children in out-of-home care are resilient and do well even if they have been placed out of home because they were maltreated.2 In this brief, we use data from the 2017 Illinois Child Well-Being Study to learn about the resilience of Illinois children in out-of-home care. Most children and youth reported positive relationships with adults and positive activities such as sports and hobbies. Most had positive expectations for their future. These results suggest that many children and youth have strengths to count on to deal with the stresses and difficulties of experiencing child maltreatment, being removed from their home, and not yet having a permanent home to return to.

Dec 2019 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Children’s Relationship with Foster Caregivers: Findings from 2017 Illinois Child Well- Being Study

Ted Cross, Aide Hernandez, and Steve Tran

Having a good relationship with a foster caregiver contributes substantially to children’s well-being in foster care. Assessing this relationship for Illinois children helps us understand and potentially help improve their quality of life. This research brief updates the assessment of Illinois children’s relationship with their foster caregivers using data collected in 2017-2018. This brief is one in a series that presents capsule summaries of results from the 2017 Illinois Child-Well-Being Study in different domains of well-being.

Nov 2019 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being, Outcomes Monitoring, Safety and Risk  
 

Five Findings from the 2019 B.H. Monitoring Report

Children and Family Research Center

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is responsible for assuring the safety, family permanency, and well-being of the children who have been investigated for abuse or neglect or who have been removed from their homes and placed into substitute care. For over two decades, the Children and Family Research Center (CFRC) has produced an annual monitoring report that tracks the performance of the Illinois child welfare system on over 40 different measures of safety, placement restrictiveness, placement stability, and timely, stable, and permanent family relationships. The full report, which is available on the CFRC website, examines each measure over the past seven years and provides detailed tables and figures that examine differences among child age and racial groups. This brief highlights five noteworthy findings from the most recent report, which tracks performance through June 2018.

Oct 2019 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Findings From the 2017 Illinois Child Well- Being Study

Aide Hernandez, Ted Cross, and Steve Tran

An infographic presenting some of the major findings from the 2017 Illinois Child Well-Being Study.

Oct 2019 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Children in Out-of-Home Care and their Contact with Siblings: Findings from 2017 Illinois Child Well-Being Study

Ted Cross, Aide Hernandez, and Steve Tran

Children’s relationships with their siblings may be the one source of familial love that they can count on when they are placed in out-of-home care. Yet, placement in out-of-home care can separate children from their siblings. Illinois state law requires siblings who are in out-of-home care to be placed together whenever it is in their best interest and not in violation of other rules of the Department of Children and Family Services. This brief presents findings from the 2017 Illinois Child Well-Being Study on siblings of children in out-of-home care.. The study conducted interviews with caseworker, caregivers and children themselves to assess the well-being of a sample of 700 children in out-of-home care in the state. Many children in out-of-home care were placed with siblings, but a number of children had siblings in other placements, especially if there were three or more siblings in the family. Often children had limited contact with their siblings and wished for more interaction with them. These findings suggest the need for more progress to enable siblings in out-of-home care to live together and to strengthen the connections between siblings who must live apart.

Oct 2019 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Child Development of Children in DCFS Care: Findings from 2017 Illinois Child Well- Being Study

Steve Tran, Ted Cross, and Aide Hernandez

National research indicates that children in out-of-home care because of abuse or neglect are at significant risk for developmental difficulties, but to date we have limited information on the development of children in out-of-home care in Illinois. This brief presents findings on child development from the 2017 Illinois Child Well-Being Study. The study conducted interviews with caseworker, caregivers and children themselves to assess the well-being of a sample of 700 children in out-of-home care in the state. On a caregiver checklist, more than one-fifth of young children had scores on a caregiver checklist that indicated possible developmental delay or a level of developmental risk that needed to be monitored, but many of these children were not receiving a developmental intervention. Children’s likelihood of receiving a development intervention they needed differed by type of placement and by region. These finding indicate the need to develop a better understanding of what developmental interventions children in out-of-home care receive and the obstacles that keep children from receiving the help they need.

Oct 2019 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

The Safety of Children in DCFS Care: Findings from 2017 Illinois Child Well-Being Study

Ted Cross, Aide Hernandez, and Steve Tran

Children are placed in out-of-home care through the Illinois Department of Children and Family services to protect their safety, so it especially important to assess their safety while in substitute care. This brief presents findings on child safety from the 2017 Illinois Child Well-Being Study. The study conducted interviews with caseworker, caregivers and children themselves to assess the well-being of a sample of 700 children in out-of-home care in the state. Substantial proportions of children in out-of-home care have witnessed and/or experienced violence in their life, but children and youth were much less likely to experience threats to their safety in their current placement. Substantial proportion of older adolescents and youth in group homes and residential treatment reported by physically hurt by someone in the past year. Overall, these findings suggest that placement in out-of-home care leads to greater safety. But continued vigilance about children’s safety is still needed, particularly for older adolescents and youth in group homes and residential treatment.

Oct 2019 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

The Education of Children in DCFS Care: Findings from the 2017 Illinois Child Well-Being Study

Aide Hernandez, Steve Tran, and Ted Cross

Children placed in out-of-home care because of abuse or neglect often have cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and health problems that can make it difficult to succeed at school. But we have limited data on the educational well-being of Illinois children in out-of-home care through the Department of Children and Family Services. This brief presents findings on education from the 2017 Illinois Child Well-Being Study. The study conducted interviews with caseworker, caregivers and children themselves to assess the well-being of a sample of 700 children in out-of-home care in the state. Most children and youth were was performing adequately or better in school, but many children faced obstacles to school success. The brief presents an overview of results and discusses the need for increased efforts to help children in out-of-home care with their education.

Jun 2019 / Report / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

2017 Illinois Child Well-Being Study

Ted Cross, Steve Tran, Aide Hernandez, and Emily Rhodes

The 2017 Illinois Child Well-Being Study provides a snapshot of the well-being of children and youth in out-of-home care in Illinois in 2017. The Children and Family Research Center (CFRC) drew a stratified random sample of 700 children and youth from the population of children and youth in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in October 2017. The Survey Research Laboratory of the University of Illinois at Chicago conducted interviews with caseworkers, foster care providers, and children age seven and older between December 2017 and July 2018. Interviews included questions developed for the study as well as a number of standardized scales measuring child functioning and well-being.

The report documents the progress many children and youth are making, but also the disproportionate number of children who lag in development, deal with physical and behavioral health challenges, struggle in school, or face threats to their safety. The well-being data can be used to advocate for children’s needs, inform the development of DCFS policy and practice, and guide in-depth well-being research.

Mar 2018 / Presentation / Child and Family Well-Being, Outcomes Monitoring, Safety and Risk    

10 Things Early Interventionists Need To Know About The Child Welfare System

Catherine Corr, Michael T. Braun, and Steve Tran

In March 2018, CFRC researchers Michael T. Braun and Steve Tran partnered with University of Illinois Special Education assistant professor Catherine Corr to present a webinar for the Early Intervention Training Program at the University of Illinois. The webinar, titled 10 Things Early Interventionists Need To Know About The Child Welfare System, focused on demystifying the child welfare system for early interventionists and service providers. Topics included an overview of the child welfare system, the process of making a hotline call, ways to support families who have experienced past trauma, and how early interventionists can work with child welfare workers to support children and families.

 External Link
Dec 2017 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being, Outcomes Monitoring, Safety and Risk    
 

Five Findings from the 2016 B.H. Monitoring Report

Children and Family Research Center

The Children and Family Research Center (CFRC) produces the annual monitoring report of the B.H. Consent Decree, which tracks the performance of the Illinois child welfare system in achieving its stated goals of child safety, permanency, and well-being for children in or at risk of entering foster care. The full report, available on the CFRC website, contains information about Illinois performance on more than 40 measures over the past seven years. This brief highlights five key findings from the latest report, which tracks performance through the end of FY2016.

Children and Family Research Center. (2017). Five findings from the 2016 B.H. monitoring report. Urbana, IL: Children and Family Research Center, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign.

Nov 2017 / Journal Publication / Child and Family Well-Being    

Psychology and Child Protection: Promoting Widespread Improvement in Practice

Ted Cross and Irit Herskowitz

CFRC's Ted Cross, a clinical psychologist by training collaborated with Dr. irit Hershkowitz of the University of Haifa to explore the contribution of psychology to child protection. This article reviews this contribution and suggests opportunities for psychology to contribute more, choosing 3 selected areas: (a) interviewing children to assess child maltreatment, (b) the well-being of children involved with the child protection system, and (c) evidence-based practices to ameliorate the effects of child maltreatment among children involved with the child protection system. Across these areas, psychology has contributed both to the knowledge base and to available assessment and intervention methods. However, in each area, the effect on usual child protection practice has been limited. Psychology has an opportunity to broaden its contribution through research and systems intervention aimed at extending gains in these areas throughoutthe child protection field.

Cross, T. P., & Hershkowitz, I. (2017). Psychology and child protection: Promoting widespread improvement in practice. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 4, 503-518.
Nov 2017 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being, Outcomes Monitoring, Safety and Risk    
 

Exploring Disproportionality in the Illinois Child Welfare System

Michael T. Braun and Yu-Ling Chiu

Disproportionality in the child welfare system refers to the over- or underrepresentation of a group (usually a racial/ethnic group) compared to that group’s representation in a base population. This research brief explores rates of racial disproportionality in the Illinois child welfare system. It is the second brief in a series exploring disproportionality.

Nov 2017 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being, Outcomes Monitoring, Safety and Risk    
 

Understanding Disproportionality in the Child Welfare System

Michael T. Braun and Yu-Ling Chiu

Disproportionality in the child welfare system refers to the over- or underrepresentation of a group involved with the system compared to that group’s representation in a base population (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2016). This research brief defines racial disproportionality in the child welfare system, including how it is measured and how disproportionality rates should be interpreted. It is the first brief in a series exploring disproportionality in the child welfare system.

Braun, M. T., & Chiu, Y. (2017). Understanding disproportionality in the child welfare system. Urbana, IL: Children and Family Research Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dec 2014 / Journal Publication / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Criminal Investigations in Child Protective Services Cases: An Empirical Analysis

Theodore P. Cross, Emmeline Chuang, Jesse J. Helton, and Emily A. Lux

This study analyzed the frequency and correlates of criminal investigation of child maltreatment in cases investigated by child protective service (CPS), using national probability data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being. Criminal investigations were conducted in slightly more than 25% of cases. Communities varied substantially in percentage criminally investigated. Sexual abuse was the most frequent type of maltreatment criminally investigated followed by physical abuse. Logistic regression results indicated that criminal investigations were more likely when caseworkers perceived greater harm and more evidence; when CPS conducted an investigation rather than an assessment; when a parent or a legal guardian reported themaltreatment; and when cases were located in communities in which CPS and police had a memorandum of understanding (MOU) governing coordination. Most variation between communities in criminal investigation remained unexplained. The findings suggest the potential of MOUs for communities wanting to increase criminal investigation.

Cross, T.P., Chuang, E., Helton, J.J. & Lux, E.A. (2015). Criminal investigation in child protective services cases: An empirical analysis. Child Maltreatment, 20, 104-114.
Jul 2014 / Presentation / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

What Will Happen to This Child If I Report?: Outcomes of Reporting Child Maltreatment

Theodore Cross, Betsy Goulet, Jesse Helton, Emily Lux, and Tamara Fuller

Individuals considering reporting child maltreatment to protective services would naturally consider what would result from the report for the child and family. This could affect both their opinion about the value of reporting and their decision to report. This presentation profiles outcomes of reporting and considers the implications for understanding and improving the reporting situation. It briefly reviews research on the frequency and predictors of five different decisions: screening out, substantiation, CPS service delivery, child placement and providing differential response Then, using new analysis of national data, we profile the different decisions that are likely to be made for a hypothetical 100 cases. Findings suggest how modest the protective service response is in most cases, how much communities differ in outcomes of reporting, how much of a difference case factors like child age make, and how resources affect the profile of outcomes. Finally, this presentation discusses how understanding what outcomes of reporting are likely and what factors affect these outcomes could influence policy, practice and training regarding reporting.

Feb 2014 / Journal Publication / Child and Family Well-Being    

Obesity Prevalence Among Youth Investigated for Maltreatment in the United States

Jesse Helton and Janet Liechty

The objective of this study is to determine the prevalence and correlates of obesity among youth investigated for maltreatment in the United States. Participants were drawn from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being II, a national probability study of 5,873 children aged birth to 17 years under investigation for maltreatment in 2008. From child weight reported by caregivers, we estimated obesity (weight-for-age ≥95th percentile) prevalence among children aged 2 through 17 (n = 2,948). Sex-specific logistic regression models by developmental age were used to identify obesity risk factors, including child age, race/ethnicity, and maltreatment type. Obesity prevalence was 25.4% and was higher among boys than girls (30.0% vs. 20.8%). African American adolescent boys had a lower risk for obesity than white boys (OR = 0.28, 95% CI [0.08, 0.94]). Compared with girls aged 2–5 with a neglect allegation, girls with a sexual abuse allegation were at greater risk for obesity (OR = 3.54, 95% CI [1.01, 12.41]). Compared with adolescent boys with a neglect allegation, boys with a physical abuse allegation had a lower risk for obesity (OR = 0.24, 95% CI [0.06, 0.99]). Adolescent girls with a prior family history of investigation were at greater risk for obesity than those without a history of investigation (OR = 3.97, 95% CI [1.58, 10.02]). Youth investigated for maltreatment have high obesity rates compared with national peers. Opportunities to modify and evaluate related child welfare policies and health care practices should be pursued.

Helton, J. J., & Liechty, J. M. (2014). Obesity prevalence among youth investigated for maltreatment in the United States. Child Abuse & Neglect.
Dec 2013 / Journal Publication / Child and Family Well-Being    

Prevalence of Disabilities and Abilities in Children Investigated for Abuse and Neglect

Jesse Helton and Christina Bruhn

Research on disability prevalence among children in child welfare settings has typically rendered disability as a dichotomous yes/no variable. Dichotomous assessments do not take into account how disability impairs body functions, limits activities of daily living, and restricts participation in activities. A superior measurement method positions disability on a continuum of distinct abilities that can vary substantially for children with the same diagnosis. The purpose of this study is to examine disability as a continuum of abilities in different domains (cognitive, behavioral, social, and daily living) for children ages 3 to 10 years who were part of a maltreatment investigation.

Helton, J. J., & Bruhn, C. M. (2013). Prevalence of disabilities and abilities in children investigated for abuse and neglect. Journal of Public Child Welfare,7(5), 480-495.
Jun 2013 / Report / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

The Well-Being of Illinois Children in Substantiated Investigations Wave 2 Report: Results from the Illinois Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being

Jesse Helton and Ted Cross

This report provides a comprehensive look at the well-being of children involved with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) 18 months following the close of a substantiated investigation of maltreatment. It reports results from the Illinois Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (ISCAW), a statewide study of children in substantiated investigations that examines multiple domains of child well-being, including physical health, mental health, and developmental risk.

Jan 2013 / Journal Publication / Child and Family Well-Being    

Identifying the Substance Abuse Treatment Needs of Caregivers Involved in Child Welfare

Emmeline Chuang, Rebecca Wells, John Bellettiere and Theodore P. Cross

Parental substance use significantly increases risk of child maltreatment, but is often under-identified by child protective services. This study examined how agency use of standardized substance use assessments and child welfare investigative caseworker education, experience, and caseload affected caseworkers' identification of parental substance abuse treatment needs. Data are from a national probability sample of permanent, primary caregivers involved with child protective services whose children initially remained at home and whose confidential responses on two validated instruments indicated harmful substance use or dependence. Investigative caseworkers reported use of a formal assessment in over two thirds of cases in which substance use was accurately identified. However, weighted logistic regression indicated that agency provision of standardized assessment instruments was not associated with caseworker identification of caregiver needs. Caseworkers were also less likely to identify substance abuse when their caseloads were high and when caregivers were fathers. Implications for agency practice are discussed.

Chuang, E., Wells, R., Bellettiere, J. & Cross, T.P. (2013). Identifying the substance abuse treatment needs of caregivers involved in child welfare. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 45, 118-125.
Jul 2012 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

The Need for Food: Families Served by Child Welfare in Illinois

Jesse Helton and April Diaz

The purpose of this research brief is to examine the use of community food services (such as food pantries and soup kitchens) and state-provided food assistance programs among families involved in child welfare investigations in Illinois. The percentage of families in substantiated investigations in Illinois that use community food service and food assistance programs is compared to the percentage of these households that are eligible for assistance.

Jul 2012 / Presentation / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Child Maltreatment Victims Age Zero to Five: Developmental Challenges and Program Opportunities

Theodore P. Cross, Jesse J. Helton, Sandra Lyons & Judy Havlicek

Young child maltreatment victims are extremely vulnerable to compromised development. Using the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, this presentation reports Illinois and national research on developmental challenges for child victims age 0 to 5 and on interventions to address developmental lags. Large proportions of these children show delays in cognitive and language development. Gaps exist in providing early intervention, though children in foster care are more likely to receive it.Obstacles to identifying children with developmental need, referring them to early intervention (EI), and providing EI services limit the number of children receiving help and the positive impact of their involvement with EI. However, a large majority of Illinois substantiated child victims are enrolled in early child education programs, significantly more than in the rest of the country.

Jul 2012 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

The Well-Being of Illinois Infants and Toddlers in Substantiated Child Maltreatment Cases

Sandra J. Lyons, Theodore P. Cross, & Jesse J. Helton

Children from birth to age 3 are particularly vulnerable to adverse effects of child maltreatment on their development. This research brief reports findings from the Illinois Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (ISCAW) concerning the well-being of infants and toddlers in substantiated maltreatment cases in Illinois. Disproportionate percentages live in poverty, experience risk factors like domestic violence and caregiver substance abuse, and have special health care needs. Standardized measures of child development used by ISCAW show that many are at risk for development delays. Programs such as DCFS’ Integrated Assessment Program and Early Childhood Placement Family Services Program that provide developmental screening and consultations and referrals on early childhood issues are critical to meeting the developmental needs of young children involved with DCFS.

Jun 2012 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Religious Attendance of Child Welfare-Involved Caregivers and Youth

Jill Schreiber and Theodore Cross

Maltreated children are more likely to attend religious services when their caregivers (including foster parents) attend religious services. Maltreating parents are less likely to attend religious services than foster parents, so it is likely that in addition to changes in their home and school, children entering foster care will also be experiencing changes in how often they attend religious services

Schreiber, J. C. & Cross, T. P. (2012). Religious Attendance of Child Welfare-Involved Caregivers and Youth. Urbana, IL: Children and Family Research Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Jun 2012 / Report / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

The Well-Being of Illinois Children in Substantiated Investigations: Baseline Results from the Illinois Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being

Theodore Cross and Jesse Helton

This report provides results from the Illinois Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (ISCAW), an intensive study of the well-being of a random sample of 818 Illinois children involved in substantiated child maltreatment investigations. The study is a component of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW). Using data from interviews and standardized instruments used with caseworkers, caregivers, teachers and children themselves, ISCAW provides a broad profile on how child and youth victims function, how they are developing, and what services they receive. Chapters review child and adolescent well-being and services in five domains: child development; education; physical health; social, emotional and behavioral well-being; and risk in children's environment. Disproportionate percentages of children in each domain have significant problems needing intervention, but many children are resilient as well. Although many children receive services to address these problems, there is frequently a gap between the services needed and those delivered.

Nov 2011 / Journal Publication / Child and Family Well-Being    

Children with Behavioral, Non-Behavioral, and Multiple Disabilities, and the Risk of Out-of-Home Placement Disruption

Jesse J. Helton

This study examined the relative risk of placement disruption for 3 - 10 year-old children placed in out-of-home care based on the biological relatedness of the placement caregiver and child disability status: no disability, a non-behavioral disability only, a behavioral disability only, or both a non-behavioral and behavioral disability.

Jesse J. Helton. (2011). Children with behavioral, non-behavioral, and multiple disabilities, and the risk of out-of-home placement disruption, Child Abuse & Neglect, 35, 956-964.
 External Link
Aug 2011 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Unhealthy Weight Among Maltreated Children in Illinois

Jesse J. Helton

This research brief examines rates of obesity and underweight for children with a substantiated investigation of maltreatment in Illinois. Findings show that 24% of Illinois maltreated children are obese, a rate 1.5 greater than children in the general population. African-American children entering substitute care following the investigation are at the highest risk for being obese. Findings also show that 7% of Illinois maltreated children are underweight, a rate over twice that of children in the general population; 6-11 year-olds and male children at the greatest risk for underweight in Illinois. A smaller than expected percentage of caregivers of underweight or obese maltreated children think their child has a weight problem.

Jul 2011 / Presentation / Child and Family Well-Being, Sexual Abuse and Assault    
 

Criminal Investigation in Child Protective Services Cases

Ted Cross, Jesse Helton & Emmeline Chuang

Some advocates argue that police too rarely conduct criminal investigations in Child Protective Services sexual abuse cases, while policy regarding police involvement in CPS physical abuse and neglect cases is not well developed. However, little research has examined how often police investigate in CPS cases and what factors predict involvement. Using two cohorts of cases (1999-2001 and 2008-2009) from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, a national probability study of children involved in CPS investigations, this presentation examines the frequency of criminal investigations in CPS cases and the factors predicting criminal investigation. Across cohorts, criminal investigations took place in 21% to 24% of all cases, 47% to 49% of sexual abuse cases, 24% to 27% of physical abuse cases and 15% to 18% of neglect cases. Police investigated more often when caseworkers reported greater risk and harm to the child and greater evidence, but variables like child age and relationship to perpetrator were not significant. Which county was involved, however, was a major predictor, with enormous variation in rates of police investigation across counties. Thus the likelihood of a criminal investigation depends on severity but also agency differences in practice. Equity suggests the need to discuss these differences.

May 2011 / Journal Publication / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

The Relationship of Child Functioning to Parental Physical Assault: Linear and Curvilinear Models

Jesse Helton and Ted Cross

Previous research suggests a curvilinear relationship between child disability and physical abuse, with children with mild impairments at greater risk than both children with severe impairments and superior functioning. Using a national probability sample of families investigated for maltreatment (N = 1675), this study tested for both linear and curvilinear relationships of child functioning to parental physical assault. Linear relationships were found between problem behaviors and minor and severe assault, and between social skills and minor assault: the more impaired the level of child functioning, the greater the risk. Curvilinear relationships were found in which children with mildly impaired or average language skills were at greater risk for minor assault than both children with severe impairment or above average and superior skills. Children with superior daily-living skills were at lower risk for severe assault than all other children. Implications for understanding processes underlying parental physical assault of children with impairments are discussed.

Helton, J. & Cross, T.P. (2011). The relationship of child functioning to parental physical assault: Linear and curvilinear models. Child Maltreatment, 16, 126-136.
Apr 2011 / Research Brief / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Enrollment in Early Childhoood Education Programs for Young Children Involved with Child Welfare

Theodore P. Cross and Jesse J. Helton

Early childhood education programs show promise for helping ameliorate the negative effects of growing up with maltreatment, environmental risk, and disadvantage. A new CFRC study shows that child maltreatment victims involved with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services are 1.3 times more likely than comparable children in the rest of the country to be enrolled in these programs.

Nov 2010 / Presentation / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

The Role of Religion in Foster Care

Jill Schreiber

Religion is an understudied factor in child welfare in general and in the foster care system in specific. There are two reasons that religion needs to be considered in child welfare: 1) both foster children and foster parents claim that religion is important, and 2) increased religiosity is correlated with improved outcomes for adolescents in the general population and moderates negative effects faced by disadvantaged youth. Data from a nationally representative survey, the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being (NSCAW), show that foster children and foster parents are attending church at a high rate. The question remains, does the religious attendance of foster parents and foster youth affect outcome measures. (Presented workshop at the North American Association of Christians in Social Work Convention, Durham, NC, November 13, 2010.)

Jul 2010 / Presentation / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Level of Child Functionality and Caregiver Report of Physical Assault

Jesse Helton and Theodore Cross

Previous research on childhood disability and maltreatment has assumed that the risk of physical abuse has a linear relationship to level of functionality, so that the more disabled children are, the greater their risk of abuse. Other research has indicated that a yet untested curvilinear relationship may be present, where children with modest difficulties may be at greater risk. Using a cross-sectional dataset of families who have been investigated for maltreatment, this study examines the association between separate continuous measures of functionality - behavior, language, social skills, and daily-living skills - and the prevalence of minor and severe physical assault for children ages 3 to 10. Linear relationships emerged where children with many behavioral and social difficulties were more likely to experience assault compared to children without those difficulties. Negative curvilinear relationships emerged where children with modest language, social, and daily-living skills were more likely to experience an assault compared to children with many or little to no difficulties with these skills. Theoretical explanations as to why children at different levels of various types of functionality may be more or less likely to be assaulted will be discussed, focusing on the role of stress, parental expectations, and knowledge of child development within a bioecological model. Presented at the International Family Violence and Child Victimization Research Conference, Portsmouth, NH, July 13, 2010

Jul 2010 / Presentation / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being: Tools for Using a Longitudinal National Study of Children Involved in Maltreatment Investigations

Ted Cross and Keith Smith

This workshop provides a primer for prospective users of the data set of the National Survey of Child and Adolescents Well-Being (NSCAW), the largest and most ambitious study ever conducted tracking services, well-being and outcomes for children involved in child maltreatment investigations.

Jun 2010 / Presentation / Child and Family Well-Being, Safety and Risk    
 

Substantiation: Current Knowledge and Policy Options

Theodore P. Cross, Brett Drake, Tamera L. Fuller & Martin Nieto

The decision to substantiate a report of child maltreatment is one of the most important in the the child welfare field, but the latest knowledge about what underlies the decision to substantiate and how it relates to future outcomes is not widely known. This workshop--led by authors of a special section on substantiation in the journal Child Maltreatment -- provided an overview of current research on substantiation and discusses its meaning for policy. Data suggest that the substantiation decision is usually based on a combination of the harm the child is thought to have experienced and the evidence for maltreatment, although this model does not fit well in a small proportion of cases. Most worrisome are the 9% of child protective cases in which children reportedly suffered moderate to severe harm but the case was not substantiated. The workshop reviews the mixed evidence for the validity of substantiation and discusses the debate on substantiation as a gatekeeper for decision-making and a method of measuring child maltreatment. (Presented at the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) 18th Annual National Colloquium, New Orleans, LA, June 23-26, 2010)

Jun 2010 / Journal Publication / Child and Family Well-Being    

Transitioning from Informal to Formal Substitute Care Following Maltreatment Investigation

Park, J.M. & Helton, J.

This study examined associated factors of placement into formal substitute care following a maltreatment investigation and the relationship between children's entry into formal substitute care and changes in caregivers. The sample from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being included 3038 children who lived with biological parents or were placed in informal kinship and non-kinship care at the close of investigation. Placement in informal kinship and non-kinship care following a maltreatment investigation, younger age of a child, previous CPS reports, and poverty status were associated with greater odds of subsequent entry into formal substitute care. Informal kinship care following an investigation appears to be a placeholder and many of the children in such an arrangement are incorporated into the formal substitute care system. The transition from informal to formal substitute care, however, does not necessarily mean a disruption in children's placement. It can be beneficial to start foster parent training at an early stage of the assessment and preparation process for informal kin and non-kin caregivers because many of them are to become foster caregivers. It may also be advantageous to develop a standardized tool to assess informal caregivers' service needs, and make training and support services responsive to those particular needs.

Park, J. M., & Helton, J. (2010). Transitioning from informal to formal substitute care following maltreatment investigation. Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 998-1003.
Mar 2010 / Presentation / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Prevalence, Trajectories, and Risk Factors for Depression Among Caregivers of Young Children Involved in Child Maltreatment Investigations

Heather Ringeisen, Cecilia Casanueva, Theodore Cross & Sharon Christ

This study examined the frequency and persistence of depression among mothers of young children in child protective investigations using a national child welfare probability study. It also identified family and environment factors associated with mothers becoming and staying depressed. Almost half of these mothers experienced depression at one point during a five year follow-up period after the close of a maltreatment investigation and there was no significant improvement in depression over levels at the start of the study. Being a victim of intimate partner violence and reporting fair or poor health were the two most consistent predictors of mothers' depression. (Presented at the 23rd Annual Children's Mental Health Research and Policy Conference, Tampa, FL.)

Jan 2010 / Journal Publication / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Prevalence, Trajectories, and Risk Factors for Depression Recurrence Among Caregivers of Young Children Involved in Child Maltreatment Investigations

Cecilia Casanueva, Theodore Cross, Heather Ringeisen & Sharon Christ

This study examines depression among caregivers of young children involved in investigations of child maltreatment, in terms of 12-month prevalence of depression across 5 to 6 years. Data were from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, a national probability study of 5,501 children investigated for maltreatment. The study sample comprised 1,244 female caregivers (95.5% biological mothers) of children not placed out of home and younger than 5 years old. About a quarter of caregivers had, at any given point, a score indicating major depression in the previous 12 months; across all follow-ups, 46% of caregivers had a score indicating major depression at some point. Depression was associated with caregivers' report of intimate-partner violence and fair or poor health status. Caregivers of maltreated children are at substantial risk for depression that does not diminish over the course of 5 years. Assessing and providing assistance for intimate-partner violence and health problems may help decrease depression prevalence.

Casanueva, C., Cross, T.P., Ringeisen, H. and Christ, S. (2010). Prevalence, trajectories, and risk factors for depression recurrence among caregivers of young children involved in child maltreatment investigations. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 19, 98-116.
Jan 2010 / Journal Publication / Child and Family Well-Being    

Delivery of Mental Health Services for a State's Population of Children in Foster Care: A Comparison of Illinois and National Data

Ted Cross and Christina Bruhn

States play a major role in providing mental health services for children in foster care, but previous research uses either local or national samples. Using 2003 and 2005 data, the present study compares children in foster care in Illinois and nationally on mental health need and service receipt. Caregivers completed measures of children's mental health problems and service receipt and youths completed selfreport measures of mental health problems. From 46.5% to 55.9% of Illinois children and youth in foster care scored in the clinical or borderline clinical range on a caregiver measure of children's mental health, comparable to national rates. Children and youth selfreported lower rates of mental health problems both in Illinois and nationally. Though sizable proportions used mental health services across samples, Illinois children in foster care were significantly less likely to receive a range of different mental health services than children in foster care nationally. Challenges to service delivery for Illinois children in foster care and recent service improvements are reviewed in this and a companion paper.

Cross, T.P. & Bruhn, C. (2010). Delivery of mental health services for a state's population of children in foster care: A comparison of Illinois and national data. Illinois Child Welfare, 5, 87-107.
Sep 2009 / Journal Publication / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Mental Health and Special Education Services at School Entry for Children Who Were Involved with the Child Welfare System as Infants

Ringeisen, H., Casanueva, C., Cross, T.P. & Urato, M.

This study examines mental health and special education needs and service use at school entry among children involved in maltreatment investigations as infants. Data are from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, a national probability study of 5,501 children investigated for maltreatment. The study sample comprised 959 children who were infants at baseline and 5 to 6 years old at the last follow-up. Half had behavioral or cognitive needs at entry to school. About a quarter received outpatient mental health or special education services. Logistic regression showed that compared to children residing with biological parents, adopted and foster children were more likely to receive mental health services, and children adopted or in kinship care were more likely to receive educational services. Increased monitoring of behavioral and cognitive needs of infants reported for maltreatment may facilitate their access to services and ease the transition to school.

Ringeisen, H., Casanueva, C., Cross, T. P., & Urato, M. (2009). Mental health and special education services at school entry for children who were involved with the child welfare system as infants. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 17, 177-192.
Jan 2009 / Presentation / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

System Challenges and Mental Health Services for Children in Foster Care: The Illinois Experience

Ted Cross and Christina Bruhn

This presentation reports results on mental health services for Illinois children in foster care from the 2003 and 2005 Illinois Child Well-Being studies and contrasts them with results from national comparison data. Illinois children were significantly less likely to receive mental health services than children in foster care nationally. Obstacles impeding service delivery are reviewed. Presented at the Society for Social Work Research Conference, New Orleans, LA.

Jul 2008 / Journal Publication / Child and Family Well-Being    

Special Health Care Needs Among Children in Child Welfare

Heather Ringeisen, Cecilia Casanueva, Mathew Urato & Theodore Cross

The aim of this study was to determine levels of special health care need among children in the child welfare system and how these needs may affect children's functioning. Data were from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being, a national probability study of children investigated for child maltreatment. The sample consisted of 5496 children aged 0 to 15 years at baseline. For analysis, we used descriptive statistics to determine special health care needs and children's functioning from baseline to 3-year follow-up. Logistic regression was used to examine correlates of special health care needs.

Ringeisen, H. , Casanueva, C. Urato, M.,& Cross, T.P. (2008). Special health care needs among children in child welfare. Pediatrics, 122, 232-241.
Jun 2008 / Presentation / Child and Family Well-Being    
 

Adoption Outcomes for Maltreated Infants: A Longitudinal Analysis

Theodore P. Cross

This presentation provided results from a longitudinal analysis of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being on outcomes related to adoption for a subsample of infants who had been maltreated. Nearly one-third of infants involved in investigations were placed outside the home during or soon after the maltreatment investigation; 36% of this group had been adopted by a five-year follow-up. At five-year follow-up, adopted children had better outcomes on cognitive and learning measures than children in kin and foster care. Additional results examine frequency of multiple placements, timing of finalization, and other five-year well-being outcomes.




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