Children and families interacting with the child welfare system are arguably among the most profoundly affected by public policies, and are also of particular interest in light of recent estimates that about one-third of all children in the U.S. will be investigated by Child Protective Services (CPS) before age 18. Using newly constructed longitudinal administrative data from a single state (Wisconsin), Cancian investigated the relations between child welfare involvement and key outcomes in emerging adulthood. Her research team considered differences in the risk of early childbearing among low-income, maltreated, and foster youth, and whether differences likely reflect selection factors versus effects of involvement with Child Protective Services (CPS) or foster care. She found that both the youth involved in CPS and in foster care were at significantly higher risk of early motherhood than low-income youth. These differences are not explained by a range of sociodemographic and family composition characteristics. Yet, Cancian’s findings indicate that CPS and foster care are unlikely to be causal agents in the risk of early motherhood: among foster youth, risk was lower during foster care as compared with before; and among CPS-involved youth, risk was lower after CPS investigation as compared with before. In addition, after youth exited foster care, those who were reunified with their birth families were at higher risk for early childbearing than those placed in adoption or guardianship. Overall, her findings suggest that, whereas CPS and foster youth are high-risk populations for early motherhood, CPS involvement and foster care placement do not exacerbate, and may instead reduce, risk. Cancian interprets these findings in the context of related finding on the variation in the educational and earnings outcomes of youth exiting foster care.
Maria Cancian is professor of public affairs and social work and an affiliate and former director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research considers the interactions of the child support, child welfare and incarceration systems, as well as the implications of multiple partner fertility for family organization and policy. Cancian is principal investigator, with Daniel R. Meyer, of the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration, a senior fellow of Casey Family Programs, and served as senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy for HHS Administration of Children and Families in the Obama administration. She was also W. T. Grant Foundation Distinguished Fellow-in-residence at the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, and a visiting fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. She received her doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan.
The importance of early childhood (ages 0-8) is well established, but less is known about the educational, community, and social services interventions that can set children on successful long-term paths. The Early Childhood Initiative (ECI), established by the Center for Child and Family Policy, seeks to bring together scholars from across Duke to address these challenges and produce world-class scholarship that helps maximize the potential of all children during the early childhood years. ECI Seminar Series speakers range across disciplines but share an interest in bringing cutting-edge science to bear on policies affecting young children.Visitor parking is available for a fee at the Science Drive visitors’ lot. Please join us for a reception after the talk.