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Instability and early life changes among children in the child welfare system

Casanueva, C., Dozier, M., Tueller, S., et al. – 2012

This NSCAW research brief addresses instability in caregivers and households among young children involved in the child welfare system, both for those who remain at home and those placed in out-of-home care. Presents background and data on the vulnerability of young children to maltreatment. Notes that interventions that result in out-of-home placement can cause trauma and attachment problems in young victims of maltreatment. Family risk factors at the time of maltreatment reports include domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health problems, poor parenting skills, and poverty. The majority of young children involved in maltreatment reports experienced neglect. A substantial percentage of families experienced multiple stressors, including drug and alcohol abuse. A change in caregivers was very common in the first two years of life for infants involved in maltreatment reports. A majority of this population of infants experienced at least one change by the time they reached school age. Children with a high number of risk factors were more likely to have multiple changes. Overall, more than 85% of children who were infants at the time of the maltreatment report experienced at least one caregiver/household change by the age of two. Report discusses the negative impact of toxic stress and exposure to traumatic events on children’s development and mental health. Provides examples of evidence-based intervention programs that target this population of children.