According to 2011 data, 12.5 percent of children under the age of 18 are abused or neglected in the United States each year. A Facts on Youth brief from the Center for Health and Justice at TASC cites a study published in JAMA Pediatrics that found confirmed maltreatment for 1 in 8 youth, with nearly 6 percent of cases (just less than half of confirmed reports) involving children ages 5 and under. The brief also notes that studies of child abuse and maltreatment that rely on self-reports rather than substantiated reports indicate a rate of up to 40 percent.
The Child Trends brief Preventing Violence: Understanding and addressing determinants of youth violence in the United States reviewed relevant research on interventions and policy approaches to reducing youth violence, with an emphasis on individual, family and school/community factors. This review identified several predictors of violence, including domestic violence, dysfunctional parenting, gun availability, low self-control, and lack of connectedness to school. Child maltreatment, however, was a strong predictor of nearly every type of violence. The prevention of child abuse and provision of interventions to address the impact of such trauma appear to be critical actions in reducing the potential of future violence. That said, although child maltreatment is a risk factor for criminal behavior, the longer term negative effects of that experience may be offset or amplified by other life events. Completing high school/getting a GED and getting married were two factors identified by a research team at the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington as having a positive impact on a person’s life, thus reducing the power of the relationship between the maltreatment and future high risk behaviors. A history of maltreatment combined with additional risk factors, such as poverty, increases the likelihood of criminal behavior.
As safety and health are essential factors in optimal child development, and may affect a multitude of life outcomes, new strategies have emerged to better identify and “triage” high-risk situations. States are turning to the big data playbook to assist in investigations of abuse and maltreatment, using predictive analysis to help prioritize reports and better provide preventive services. Information such as family history, school reports and other administrative data, plus case officer knowledge, gives child welfare decision-makers more (if not necessarily better) data to guide the use of resources for the protection of children. Along with Connecticut, Florida, and Los Angeles County, Allegheny County here in western Pennsylvania is utilizing predictive analytics in an effort to reduce child maltreatment, abuse, and fatalities. For more information on how predictive analysis is being used in child welfare, see Who will Seize the Child Abuse Prediction Market by Darian Woods and Checklists, Big Data and the Virtues of Human Judgement by Holden Slattery, both in The Chronicle of Social Change.
With budget season looming, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is keeping an eye on the happenings in Harrisburg. They recently commented on the education funding in Governor Wolf’s proposed 2015-16 budget and in February released a brief detailing the state of school readiness among the Commonwealth’s youngest residents. According to their analysis, less than 19 percent of 3- and 4-years-olds have access to quality, public pre-K programs, and 7.5 percent of youth up to age four have high-quality child care. The data briefs on school readiness factors for Allegheny County (and all counties) are also available on the PPC website.
The Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University formed the 74% Project to explore the lives of women leaders in the nonprofit sector. Wage inequality in nonprofits throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania is their current research focus – one that resulted in some interesting data on the salary disparities of male and female executive directors. Their debut fundraiser, “The Great Debate” will be held on Equal Pay Day April 14, 2015 from 5:30 – 8:00 p.m. at the Twentieth Century Club in Oakland.
On the other side of the state, nonprofit leaders are, by their own reports, stressed out. A survey conducted by the Nonprofit Center at La Salle University’s School of Business found that half a decade after the official end of the Great Recession, 51 percent of Philadelphia nonprofits are still struggling to bounce back, with little or no economic recovery reported. Of those leaders who reported some recovery, the majority (75 percent) attribute it to individual giving. Long term financial stability and finding the budget to hire additional staff (to meet in the increase for services since the late 2000’s) were the top concerns among nonprofit executives. Exhausted and stressed were the top responses (tied at 22 percent) describing how the respondents felt as leaders, but 19 percent reported feeling optimistic. The complete report is available at the Center’s website.
Pennsylvania Senate Bill 4 continues to be debated in both the press and the Legislature. The bill would grant power to legislators to determine what charities are eligible for tax exemptions through an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution. Rich Lord and Chris Potter of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette look at the impact of this change and why many nonprofits back the amendment in their article Pennsylvania bill debates definition of taxable charities.
For over a decade The Urban Institute has tracked the long term impacts for families relocated by the Chicago Housing Authority to make way for their removal of public housing complexes throughout the city. The relocated residents report better housing and neighborhood quality since the move. For youth however, the improved living environment does not appear to have had a transformative effect on their lives.
According to the brief, Chronic Violence: Beyond the Developments, follow-up data from 2011 indicate that children in the new housing (voucher-enabled private rentals or refurbished public housing) were not attending higher quality schools and were still living in neighborhoods with nearly half of the residents below the poverty line. Parental reports of negative behavior and delinquent activity were similar to the baseline data of youth in the public housing complexes. In addition, academic performance remained a concern, with approximately 33 percent of the teenagers not in the appropriate grade for their age and about 66 percent unengaged in school or work activities.
Authors Chantal Hailey and Megan Gallagher discuss the presence and patterns of neighborhood violence as a continuing factor risk factor in the lives of these families, even after relocation, specifically the impact it has upon youth in the form of continued exposure to trauma, a nomadic lifestyle, and avoidance or isolation. The researchers at The Urban Institute recommend intensive case management services for the relocated families in Chicago, with the hope that such intervention would improve future outcomes.
The impact of neighborhood violence on youth can be devastating, both in perceived and actual threats of physical harm, the psychological toll of anxiety, and the impact of traumatic events on a child’s development. It should be noted that research identified similar problems for youth in “rough” neighborhoods from a sample that included families above the poverty line. Addressing the long-lasting impacts of community violence in a meaningful manner is challenging as both the context of the violence witnessed and gender differences in coping techniques may lessen responsiveness to standardized interventions “proven” in another city. The mixed perception of the outside “experts” (school officials, teachers, social workers, counselors, police, etc.) by community members may also serve as a obstacle in forming a partnership to reduce youth and adult violence. There is not a single policy nor intervention that will be able to neutralize or remove every risk factor, but based on the results of various initiatives across the country, a combination of behavioral interventions and police strategies may prove effective going forward.
The most recent School Readiness report
from Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
paints a cautious picture of future academic success for students in the Commonwealth. The report examines several family and community level variables including access to medical care, early learning /pre-K programs, and family income – all critical in preparing a young child for entry into school at age six, and often predictors for future success.
In Pennsylvania as a whole:
- The percentage of children under the age of 4 lacking health insurance (5 percent) had little to no change from the 2011 report, although the amount of children enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) declined by over 40,000
- The amount of young children receiving early intervention services and quality child care increased, both by approximately 6 percent, however, Head Start and other public pre-K programs served fewer children than the year prior
- About 38 percent of children under the age of 5 live in low-income families
- 16.5 percent of children ages 4 and under attend publicly funded pre-K, down from 17.6 percent in the 2011 report
- Child abuse and neglect reports and substantiations for children under 5 years old decreased
Only time will tell if the sluggish trend in critical school readiness factors will continue, or what (if any) the eventual impact will be on the Pennsylvania children just beginning their educations. Hopefully, accommodations can be made to maintain these programs as research has found demonstrable cognitive benefits of daycare and pre-K. Even when factors related to a child’s emotional and social development offset some gains, typically, the overall impact is not diminished.