Child Welfare Involvement Among Children in Subsidized Early Care and Education Programs


The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that in 2013 there were 679,000 confirmed cases of child maltreatment nationally. Research shows that early trauma such as abuse and neglect can have long-term negative consequences for brain, cognitive and social development. Some experts have suggested Early Care and Education (ECE) services may mitigate the effects of child maltreatment and enhance the safety, permanency and well-being of children removed from their homes and placed in out-of-home foster care. Los Angeles County and California have seen recent policy work around connecting subsidized ECE services[1] and the child welfare system. However, efficient and effective coordination of services in Los Angeles County (and throughout California) is hindered by the siloed nature of data collection systems. Although we know that children interact with many different public systems, there is little information on the timing or nature of cross-sector service encounters. This project was designed to provide proof of concept for how ECE records can be integrated across funding streams in a large non-profit agency in Northern Los Angeles County to determine the unique population of children served across ECE programs at the agency. These records can then be linked to external data systems to generate a more complete picture of those children and families served and their outcomes.

[1] Federally subsidized Head Start and Early Head Start; state-subsidized child care for families receiving CalWORKs; and other state-subsidized child care programs.

Overview of Findings

This report shows the significant overlap (28.2%) in children served by both the child welfare and ECE sectors between 2011 and 2014. Of the children served by both ECE and child welfare:

  • 1 in 5 children served through Early/Head Start were known to child welfare;
  • 1 in 3 children served through state-funded child care vouchers were known to child welfare. Of those served by child care vouchers:
    • 1 in 3 children served by TANF-based vouchers were known to child welfare
    • 1 in 4 children served by Alternative Payment vouchers were known to child welfare.

The current study also found that of the children served in ECE and child welfare, 3 out of 4 were enrolled in ECE prior to their participation in child welfare. Given the significant overlap between systems serving the same children and families in these communities, the potential for targeted resource allocation and more effective collaboration between systems should be considered by system managers and policy makers. Study findings and ongoing examination of the intersections of ECE and child welfare also support a pilot project that will provide emergency child care assistance to resource families with young children that is being conducted by CCRC and the Van Nuys office of LA’s Department of Children and Family Services; CDN staff serve as advisors on data collection and analysis. A new round of data analysis is planned to expand the time frame covered in the initial study and include additional data on child care services for families enrolled in Stage 1 of the CalWORKs program.


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