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 Issue 4  |  October 2012


This issue of the CFRC Research Resource focuses on the well-being of children in the child welfare system. In 2009, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Casey Family Programs provided funding to the Children and Family Research Center to initiate the Illinois Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (ISCAW), an in-depth study of the well-being of children involved in substantiated allegations of child maltreatment. This ground-breaking study conducted interviews with the children, their parents or caretakers, caseworkers, and teachers and provides rich information on their physical and mental health, developmental and educational status, and risk behaviors.  Highlighted below are several CFRC reports that use ISCAW data to examine the well-being of children involved with the child welfare system.   

The Illinois Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being 


The Illinois Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being is a longitudinal study of the same group of children in substantiated investigations at several points over time.  The baseline data collection occurred about four to five months after their initial investigation was closed.  The Children and Family Research Center published a baseline report  that described the children's developmental status, educational status, physical health, social and emotional well-being, and risk behaviors.  Since the ISCAW is a random sample of all children in substantiated investigations, it includes children who remain at home following their investigation and those that are removed and placed into substitute care, and allows us to compare their well-being. 

Infants and Toddlers In the Child Welfare System Face Developmental Problems 

Maltreated children are at greater risk than other children for adverse outcomes in physical health, brain development, cognitive and language skills, and social-emotional functioning.  Children from birth to age 3 are particularly vulnerable because of the rapid physical and social development that occurs between infancy and toddlerhood.  This research brief provides a snapshot of the physical and developmental well-being of infants and toddlers  substantiated maltreatment investigation in Illinois.

Food Issues a New Area of Concern for
Child Welfare

The number of U.S. families struggling to put enough food on the table for their children is increasing.  Community food services, such as food pantries and soup kitchens, and federal programs such as food stamps are critically important in fighting hunger.  Although there is a well-documented link between maltreatment and poverty, no research has examined the use of food assistance programs by families involved in the Illinois child welfare system.  A  research brief examined this issue and found that although sizable portions of families - both intact families and foster families - were eligible for food assistance, many did not report using them. Food insecurity can have lasting effects on child health and development, so every effort should be made to support enrollment in these programs among eligible families.

Abused and Neglected Children at a High Risk for Unhealthy Weight

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years, causing many to consider it a national epidemic.  Some of the causes of obesity in adulthood have been traced back to adverse childhood experiences, including abuse and neglect.  This brief examines the rates of obesity and severe underweight for children in substantiated investigations in Illinois, and compares these rates to both child welfare-involved children in the nation and children in the general U.S. population.   Results suggest that rates of unhealthy weight among maltreated children in Illinois are higher than children in the general population but lower than those among maltreated children nationally.  Certain subgroups of maltreated children in Illinois are at particularly high risk for obesity.

Join the School of Social Work for the
6th Annual Brieland Visiting Scholar Lecture

Creating a Child-Friendly Child Welfare System: Effective Early Intervention Systems 


November 5, 2012
4:00 p.m.
University of Illinois, School of Social Work
Room 2027
1010 W. Nevada St.
Urbana, IL 61801
Lecture presentation by: Elizabeth Bartholet, J.D.

Abuse and neglect cause enormous suffering and seriously limit the life prospects of the infants and young children victimized.  Our current child protective system can fail children, including those it identifies as maltreated, keeping them with their parents despite very high maltreatment recurrence rates. This lecture explores a range of promising initiatives for reducing maltreatment, both family support programs designed to prevent it from occurring in the first place, and coercive intervention programs responding to maltreatment that does occur.  The lecture will also  analyze the ideological biases that limit movement in the direction of promising reform.  Professor Bartholet will challenge the listeners to transform the values that guide the child welfare system, place child rights on a par with adult rights, and recognize the centrality of the child's right to grow up in a nurturing family.

Reception to be held at the Children and Family Research Center.
Watch your inbox and mailbox for further details.

This lecture is free and open to the public.