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December/January 2020Vol. 20, No. 10Study Looks at Role, Perceptions of Poverty as Contributing Factor in Child Neglect Cases

A study examining both caseworker and parental perceptions of poverty as a contributing factor in child neglect-related cases and home removals suggests that poverty affects both child welfare involvement and case outcomes. The study looked at the role of poverty as well as worker and parental perceptions in cases involving physical neglect in Michigan's Upper Peninsula counties. The study is based on interviews with eight child welfare workers or administrators and six parents with past or current involvement in alleged or substantiated child neglect cases.

The author notes that worker perceptions varied among workers. For example, some viewed a "dirty home" as being a sign of neglect, but others saw it as neglect. Some workers felt that clients may use poverty as an excuse for poor parenting or as a tool to gain undeserved financial resources. Parent perceptions varied from believing that poverty was the sole reason for their child welfare involvement to not accepting poverty as a contributing factor.

The study points out that, among other factors contributing to permanent family separations, the abbreviated timeline under the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act may not give parents whose children have been removed from the home enough time to achieve financial stability in order to assist in having their parental rights reinstated.

"Poverty, Neglect, and Involvement in the Child Welfare System: Perceptions of Workers and Parent Clients," by Emily Perdue (Proceedings of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, 2013), is available at