The large number of young children coming to the attention of Child Protective Services (CPS) poses a significant challenge, but it also represents an opportunity for improved collaboration between the public agencies responsible for child welfare services and aligned community-based organizations that provide resources and services to support child development and strengthen families. This study, which grew out of a previous study exploring Child Welfare (CW) involvement among children in subsidized Early Care and Education (ECE) programs in Los Angeles County, provides information on the families and children in Northern Los Angeles County who interacted with the Department of Children and Family Services and those who received subsidized Early Care and Education (ECE) services through the Child Care Resource Center, the lead child care resource and referral agency serving the north of LA County, between 2010-2016. Findings also explore overlaps among families reported to CPS and those accessing subsidized ECE services for babies, toddlers and children up to age five.
Over 100,000 children (n=102,649) were born in the region between 2010 and 2012. A substantial number touched each of these systems – ECE and CW – before age 5. About 1 in every 9 (11.2%) received subsidized ECE through CCRC before the age of 5. And the same proportion, about 1 in every 9 (11.7%) received a referral to the child protective services hotline for alleged abuse or neglect.
The families that depend on subsidized ECE programs to enhance child development and/or to provide child care while parents are at work or in school are often thought of as being different from those who are the subject of referrals to the child protective services system. The analysis shows, however, that the two groups were similar in terms of having limited incomes and assets. The similarity in these populations underscores the vulnerability of the subsidized ECE population, as well as the enhanced needs of the CW population for family strengthening and child development supports that go well beyond the usual services provided by child protective services.