- The child welfare system was established in the 1935 Social Security Act to help families and their children. Children have been the inspiration for protection and assistance among families especially those living in poverty. Previous research aims to analyze the associations between a child’s living arrangements and several child outcomes. Children who experience separation from their homes and families have significant trauma, which can impact a child’s length of stay in the child welfare system. Children who experience family disruption may end up with different long-term outcomes and race and geography may contribute to the length of stay in the system.
This paper analyzes the potential effect of individual and community characteristics on a child’s length of stay in the welfare system. I use 2018 DCFS caseload data from Los Angeles County, California and 2010 U.S. Census poverty data from Los Angeles (L.A.) to examine the association between community and individual characteristics and a child’s length of stay in the child welfare system. I assess whether children from poorer neighborhoods have longer lengths of stay, net of other demographic variables including age, gender, race, and ethnicity. I find that by controlling for gender, age, poverty, and ethnicity, the length of stay of a child is impacted by race and age, but not poverty and gender. I also review policies currently being followed in the L.A child welfare system and explain policy implications for going forward.