How can we determine which children are most at risk of serious abuse or neglect, and what can be done to protect them? Answering these questions is a primary concern of Child Protective Services. There should be. In recent years, more and more advocates have become concerned with the question of how to forestall abuse and neglect. In academia and government, it is important to get to the “upstream” of an issue.
A few years ago, in Texas, researchers began identifying communities with high child abuse rates by zip code. This measurement also included children exposed to abuse. Often it was a sibling from a family with reports of abuse or neglect of another child. Next, researchers sought to understand the common characteristics of communities.
This strategy differs from simply assessing risk factors for specific families. It is complex and controversial for governments to single out specific families (even if they do so only to provide support). By focusing on the entire at-risk community and providing a range of services, the researchers hoped to sidestep this difficulty.
Several factors that correlate with high-risk communities are not surprising: a high proportion of residents without a high school diploma, and hospital-based delivery of teenage mothers or infants to the emergency room; But the factor with the strongest correlation by far is the proportion of adults aged 35 to 64 who are receiving Social Security benefits for a covered disability. Again, this is not to say that adults receiving benefits are more likely to harm children, but their prevalence is an important factor in the potential for child abuse in the community. It will tell you
Dorothy Mundell, a professor of community health at the University of Texas and one of the authors of the model, said, “If an adult is under 65 and is disabled, it is likely that the adult has a mental health problem or a substance use problem. It is very likely that there will be,” he said. The order in which these occur varies. As Mandel puts it, “There is a strong association between adults becoming physically disabled and developing depression. However, some people become disabled because of chronic mental health problems. The role of traumatic injuries and abuse of painkillers cannot be ignored.”
Nicholas Eberstadt documents a strong correlation between disability benefits and substance abuse, and also describes how disability benefits have funded much of the drug crisis in the United States. A constant supply of painkillers? OxyContin is not cheap.As [the book] Dreamland Carefully explained, one of the major mechanisms today was the welfare state. More specifically, Medicaid, Uncle Sam’s means-tested health benefits program. “So, with his $3 out-of-pocket on Medicaid, the addict got thousands of dollars worth of drugs, with the difference paid by US and state taxpayers.”
Evidence also points to high rates of substance abuse leading to child welfare problems. The reported rate of children being placed in foster care for substance abuse is about 40 percent, but most experts believe the number is closer to 80 percent. However, it is difficult to measure. Do we rely on self-reports of drug use, caseworker reports of drug devices in the home, or evidence of actual dysfunction?
Widespread use of disability benefits is not only an objective measure. It also suggests a chronic and serious condition. People sometimes smoke joints and do not receive disability benefits. Whether it is an appropriate intervention is another matter.)
Mundell says supporters regularly ask her about poverty. It is not uncommon to hear people say that giving families more material support in the form of housing vouchers, food stamps, or even cash can reduce the number of reported neglected children. But that’s not what the Texas researchers found. Higher levels of correlation existed between poverty and abuse in older children, but disability benefits remained “by far” the strongest correlation across all age groups.
These findings not only suggest that there is something wrong with the “neglect is really about poverty” narrative, but that policy makers may target the crisis better. Suggests. If a community is struggling with increased substance abuse or mental illness, sending more cash won’t solve the problem. Opening more rehabilitation facilities may be more effective. Going upstream to fix the problem is fine, but it’s important to see the actual evidence out there.