Call for Abstracts: A Special Issue on Social Determinants of Health and Child Welfare Services

The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) and Centene Corporation are pleased to announce a call for abstracts for a special issue of Child Welfare journal dedicated to examining the relationship between social determinants of health (SDoH) and child welfare system involvement.

The special issue will focus on the intersection of SDoH and child welfare. We are interested in examining how a focus on SDoH can improve the delivery of services to children and families who are involved in child welfare. We are also interested in how a focus on SDoH in the health care arena can positively impact children, adolescents, and families so that they don’t come in contact with the child welfare system. Submission topics are not limited to children and adolescents, but rather should incorporate the entire family.

The body of research and literature related to how social, economic, and environmental factors impact overall health is growing. It generally is accepted that addressing social needs is important in improving an individual’s health and decreasing health disparities. However, understanding how to address SDoH in an impactful way still is a challenge. This is especially so for the child and family serving systems when engaging the child welfare population, which has often experienced/experiences significant adverse childhood experiences and other issues such as intergenerational trauma and abuse, poverty, chronic neglect, economic insecurities, housing instability, and residing in communities where there is significant violence. Furthermore, the role of the child welfare community in addressing these issues is even less understood. The COVID-19 pandemic further has highlighted the significant disparities for communities, families, and children who are Black, Brown, and Indigenous, many of whom experience inequities in child welfare.

The goal of this special issue is to advance our understanding by featuring policy, theoretical, and empirical papers focused on the intersection of SDoH and child welfare. We are especially interested in examples from other systems that might be relevant for use within the child welfare system. Guest editors are a team from Centene–Cheryl Fisher, Karen Rogers, David Allen, Stan Waddell, and Haleta Belai—and Julie Collins (CWLA).

We are particularly interested in manuscripts that focus on one or more of the following areas:

1. Screening and Assessments for SDoH that are evidence- based/informed and appropriate for use with families, taking into account the experiences of adult and child family members. If these are in use in other systems, how they might be used within the child welfare context.
2. Health inequities for specific populations or groups including families involved with child welfare, and those who are Black, Brown, and Indigenous.
3. The impact of a healthcare system viewing a family through a SDoH lens which is more wholistic than just social needs or diagnosis.
4. The linkages between SDoH inequities across generations within families, leading to child welfare system involvement from one generation to the next. This refers to the inequities whether at the community level (such as living in communities with violence), services level (such as housing insecurity), as well as the family (intergenerational trauma and abuse) and individual level (such as the predisposition to certain health related issues).
5. Exploration of how a better understanding of SDoH is shaping health care policy, state Medicaid programs, and service delivery, especially for children and families involved with child welfare.
6. Cross-sector partnerships addressing the topics above while incorporating existing community resources and assets and/or cultural practices.

Prospective authors should submit abstracts of up to 750 words to Rachel Adams at by October 1, 2021. Please ensure that you use person-first language. Abstracts should clearly identify the topic, methods (including data sources for empirical papers), expected or preliminary findings, and practice and policy implications. Invitations to submit a full article will be extended by November 15, 2021. Initial drafts of the selected papers are due by April 29, 2022, and final papers are expected by September 23, 2022. Publication of the special issue is targeted for fall/winter 2022.