The Rand Corporation has come up with a new study of a model of care that they say can address both prevention and child welfare treatment.  It focuses on investments into three elements of this model: prevention of child maltreatment, family preservation and supported kinship care.  In turn this can reduce overall costs and the number of children remaining in out-of-home non-relative care.  They may have also come up with an idea that has had little traction in Congress over the past few years.

RAND claims a policy package combining expanded prevention and kinship supports pays for itself: there is a net cost reduction of $12.3 billion, or 8 percent of total spending for a cohort of children born over a five-year period.

They say:

“This research suggests that one need not choose between prevention and treatment: Combining options that intervene at different points in the system and striking a balance between prevention and treatment generate stronger effects than would any single option. The simulation model identifies ways to pursue both targeted prevention and treatment while achieving multiple objectives: reducing maltreatment and the number of children entering the system, improving a child’s experience moving through the system, and improving outcomes in young adulthood. These objectives can all be met while also reducing total child welfare system costs.”

The model focuses on several strategies that have shown some success over time including Triple-P, Homebuilders and enhanced supports for kinship families.  They suggest as next steps:

“we believe that the simulation model and results will be useful to national policymakers interested in improving individual and child welfare system outcomes through changes in policy, practice, or programs. While there are many studies that address elements of the child welfare system or subpopulations of children or families, this is the first attempt to integrate maltreatment risk, detection, pathways through the system, and consequences in a comprehensive quantitative model that can be used to simulate the impact of policy changes’

In the past decade, Congress and even some advocates have been reluctant to address enhancements across the prevention to placement continuum all at once.  Most of the bills and efforts of the recent past nine years have focused on taking from within the current federal funding streams to address the other parts of the system.  A second challenge is that some have limited their view of prevention to the prevention of foster care placements which more appropriately could be labeled family preservation rather than the prevention of child maltreatment.

Despite the current political realities, the study may cause some people to reexamine their approach and the need to invest in the entire continuum of care all at once. The name of the RAND study is Improving Child Welfare Outcomes.