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February 2009Vol. 10, No. 1NSCAW Research on Child Welfare Populations

The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) released four new research briefs analyzing outcomes for different populations involved with child welfare. The briefs focus on infants, adolescents, and caregivers of young children. Each draws from the longitudinal data collected by NSCAW to study the safety, permanency, well-being, and receipt of services by children, youth, and families who have been investigated for maltreatment by child protective services.

From Early Involvement With Child Welfare Services to School Entry: Wave 5 Follow-Up of Infants in the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (No. 10) examines outcomes for 962 children ages 5 to 6 who were younger than 1 year when they first came into contact with the child welfare system. The study found that most of the children were in good physical health and demonstrated typical social and cognitive skills. In addition, 77 percent were living at home either with biological parents or kin; however, many of the children's caregivers did not access the services they needed to address issues arising from domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental health problems, placing children at greater risk for repeat maltreatment.

Adolescents Involved With Child Welfare: A Transition to Adulthood (No. 11) focuses on the needs of 620 young adults ages 18 to 21 who were involved in investigations of maltreatment when they were 12 to 15 years old. The study found that these young adults fared similar to their peers in several ways, including social support, living arrangements, contact with biological families, and employment. However, many fared worse in other areas, including poor health and obesity, lower academic achievement, domestic violence, mental health, and poverty. In addition, very few reported having received services. The brief suggests that more support services would help them transition successfully to adulthood.

Depression Among Caregivers of Young Children Reported for Child Maltreatment (No. 13) explores the rates of depression among 1,244 mothers of children younger than 5 years old who were reported to the child welfare system. At any given time, 37 percent of these caregivers had experienced symptoms of depression in the previous 12 months. In addition, more than 46 percent experienced at least one major depressive episode at some point, a rate that is almost triple the national estimate. The brief considers the child welfare system's role in addressing caregivers' mental health needs to reduce the risk of maltreatment.

Need for Adoption Among Infants Investigated for Child Maltreatment and Adoption Status 5 to 6 Years Later (No. 14) examines the characteristics of and length of time to adoption for 962 children ages 5 to 6 who were younger than 1 year when they first came into contact with the child welfare system. The study found that 61 percent of eligible infants were adopted. However, many infants in the study experienced multiple placements, with 39 percent still awaiting a permanent placement. The brief also discusses racial/ethnic minorities, children with special needs, developmental problems of adopted children, and the characteristics of birth and adoptive families.

All four research briefs can be found on the NSCAW website: