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November 2000Vol. 1, No. 7Congressional Briefing Probes Policy Implications of Child Welfare, Child Protection Research

Three prominent researchers offered an overview of the current state of child abuse and neglect, child protective services, and child welfare systems before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Human Resources on September 14, 2000. The three speakers were University of North Carolina School of Medicine Professor Desmond Runyan, Columbia University Professor Jane Waldfogel, and University of Chicago Professor Mark Courtney.

Runyan questioned whether professionals, especially physicians, are adequately trained to deal with child abuse and neglect. He commented that physicians avoid involvement in child abuse and neglect cases because of conflict appearance, poor training, fear of litigation, and financial cost. Currently medical schools give 2 hours of training about child maltreatment in the third year of medical school.

Waldfogel discussed the current state of the child protective services (CPS) system and how poverty, welfare, and CPS involvement are interrelated. She said that her research uncovered the following five fundamental problems that must be addressed in order for CPS workers to adequately perform their jobs:

  • Overinclusion: Some families that are currently in the system should not be.
  • Underinclusion: Some families that should be receiving child protective services are not.
  • Capacity: The number of families involved in the system exceeds the capacity of the system.
  • Service Delivery: Families in the system do not receive the right type of services.
  • Service Orientation: CPS has a problem finding the balance between protecting children and preserving families.

Courtney discussed the current state of the child welfare system and the implications for upcoming legislative debates. He believes that policy issues facing the next Congress will concern Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the structure of the Federal Social Services Block Grant program, and the consequences for States dealing with child welfare performance measures. Courtney also mentioned the British perspective on child welfare. In the UK, policy makers have decided to tackle the child welfare problem with the following measures:

  • Expanding early childhood intervention
  • Encouraging employment through welfare to work
  • Taking direct steps to raise incomes of poor families.

For more information, consult the following:

  • Summary of briefing by the Joint Center for Poverty Research at:
  • Article by Drs. Adrea Theodore and Desmond Runyan in Pediatrics, Vol. 104, No. 1, July 1999, "A Medical Research Agenda for Child Maltreatment: Negotiating the Next Steps."
  • Forthcoming articles by Jane Waldfogel in Family Law Quarterly, Special Issue, "Protecting Children in the 21st Century"; and in Children and Youth Services Review, Special Issue, "Child Welfare Research: How Adequate Are the Data?"