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Benefits of early care and education for child welfare-involved children: Perspectives from the field

Increasing access to early care and education (ECE) for children in the child welfare system (CWS) remains a critical issue in the United States, as the numbers of young children entering this system steadily increases. Mounting evidence suggests that participation in at least some types of ECE can mitigate the need for child welfare supervision. Moreover, ECE participation has been linked to positive developmental and school readiness outcomes, lower rates of foster placement, and greater placement stability for children in the CWS. Despite this research, ECE is not widely used by this population. This study informs recent local and federal efforts to increase ECE utilization among children in the CWS by exploring the perspectives of three stakeholder groups (child welfare caseworkers, ECE providers, and parents/caregivers) regarding the benefits of CWS-supervised children's participation in ECE for 1) the children themselves, 2) their parents/caregivers, and 3) their caseworkers. A total of ten focus groups were conducted with these stakeholders in a large urban area in the western U.S. (n=79). Meeting transcripts were analyzed with Atlas TI software to identify themes. Results highlight multiple ways in which participants perceived ECE as being beneficial for CWS-supervised children, as well as for their parents/caregivers, and caseworkers. These findings offer suggestions for ways to motivate caseworkers and parents/caregivers to enroll CWS-supervised children in ECE by educating them about benefits, not only for the children, but also for themselves. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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