Child Welfare Involvement and Contexts of Poverty: The Role of Parental Adversities, Social Networks, and Social Services

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Research documents a link between poverty and child welfare involvement, but the nature of this relationship is unclear. By providing in-depth accounts of situations leading to child welfare involvement, parents' perspectives can enrich our understanding of how poverty matters for child welfare involvement. Based on in-depth interviews with 40 poor parents previously investigated for child maltreatment, I discuss contexts of poverty that provided pathways to child welfare involvement. Poverty created environments of desperation and disadvantage, combined with reliance on supports that reported parents to child welfare agencies. The vast majority of incidents parents described implicated in their involvement parental adversities related to poverty; embeddedness in disadvantaged networks or volatile personal relationships; and/or involvement in, or need for, social services. These findings suggest a research approach that interrogates this complexity and maltreatment prevention policies that broadly strengthen supports for families and communities.

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Last updated on 06/09/2019