Why Linkages?

There is significant evidence that factors such as parental stress from economic hardship can detrimentally affect parenting behaviors and result in neglect and abuse. The Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4): 2010 Report to Congress underscores the value of addressing families’ economic well-being as an essential protective factor for child safety. This study shows that compared to children with employed parents, those with no parent in the labor force have 2 to 3 times the rate of child maltreatment. Further, families with low socio-economic levels have increased rates of maltreatment: 5 times the rate overall, 3 times the rate for abuse and 7 times the rate for neglect.

Several nationally recognized researchers from California and elsewhere validate this connection between poverty and maltreatment. Kristen Shook Slack, PhD from University of Wisconsin – Madison, presented The Elephant in the Room: Poverty’s Role in Child Maltreatment Risk as the keynote address at the 2008 Linkages Convening in Sacramento. At the 2010 Linkages Convening in Sacramento, Jill Duerr Berrick, PhD from the School of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley discussed trends affecting Linkages families in her presentation, Poverty, TANF and Parenting: Understanding the Connection.

A 2021 Chapin Hall Policy “System Transformation to Support Child & Family Well-Being: The Central Role of Economic & Concrete Supports” brief reiterated research by Drake & Johnson-Reid (Poverty & Child Maltreatment, 2014) that families below the poverty line are three times more likely to be substantiated for child maltreatment. Housing instability, food insecurity, and income shortfalls can endanger children and the Chapin brief acknowledges that child welfare is not resourced or designed to address these issues. One of the strategic areas suggested is the “Expanded programmatic capacity to deliver supports collaboratively across human service agencies through new pathways accessible to families who need them.”

In most California counties, the overlap between the CalWORKs and child welfare populations is significant. For example, in Los Angeles County in 2002, about 45% of children involved in child welfare services were on CalWORKs at some point during the year. This overlap along with the strong connection between poverty and maltreatment create the impetus for Linkages service coordination.