• June 2002
  • Vol. 3, No. 5

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New Study Looks at the Well-Being of Children in the Child Welfare System

A study from the Urban Institute finds that children involved in the child welfare system are not faring well emotionally, behaviorally, educationally, or physically.

The report, entitled The Well-Being of Children Involved with the Child Welfare System: A National Overview, was published in January. This study is the latest in a series of publications from the Assessing New Federalism project.

Because most children in custody have experienced abuse and neglect, they have a higher incidence of emotional and behavioral problems than their unabused counterparts in the general population, according to the report.

This study is the first national overview of the well-being of children involved with the child welfare system and is based on data from the 1997 and 1999 National Survey of America's Families. Among the statistics for children in the child welfare system:

  • 27 percent have high levels of behavioral and emotional problems (ages 6-17)
  • 39 percent display low engagement in school (ages 6-17)
  • 28 percent have a limiting physical, learning, or mental health condition.

In the area of caregiver well-being, the report documents that a quarter of children in foster or relative care were living with caregivers assessed as highly aggravated. Additionally, a quarter of children under 6 involved with the child welfare system are living with caregivers who provide minimal cognitive stimulation, including reading to them and taking them on outings.

Following detailed statistical information on the difficulties that these children face, the report concludes that the well-being of these children is "compromised," and that the child welfare system may need to devote more resources to the problem.

Access a copy of the report online in HTML format at http://www.urban.org/Template.cfm?NavMenuID=24&Template=/ TaggedContent/ViewByPubID.cfm&PubID=310413, or in PDF format at http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/310413_anf_b43.pdf.

For more information about the Assessing New Federalism project, visit its website at http://www.urban.org/Content/Research/NewFederalism/ AboutANF/AboutANF.htm.

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