Research Watch

Lowering child welfare payments to mothers and the likelihood of out-of-home placement in child protection settings

Year of Publication
Reviewed By
Megan Simpson

Wildeman, C. and P. Fallesen (2017). The effect of lowering welfare payment ceilings on children's risk of out-of-home placement. Children and Youth Services Review, 72, 82-90.


Children and families who experience low income and poverty are more likely to experience CPS involvement, such that children of the low income and impoverished families are more likely to be removed from their home environment than children whose families have greater resources. The authors of this study sought to improve the knowledge on the effects of economic conditions on child welfare data using a difference in difference model. This model demonstrated whether the 2004 Danish child welfare reform increased the likelihood of children being removed from the home when involved with child protective service agencies.

Child protective services in Denmark are markedly different in their approach in comparison to North American CPS providers. Some main differences include: rarely terminates parental rights when placing children in care outside of the home; opting for long term foster care over residential care when reunification is not possible; Denmark has a historically high rate of children placed out of the home and Danish children are more likely to be placed outside their family home as teenagers and they are less likely to use kinship care.  However, risk factors, which lead to placement, are consistent with those observed in North American populations.

The primary sample was comprised of mothers who did not have unemployment insurance and would be affected by the decrease in state monetary assistance due to the 1998 reform in Demark. A control group was used for comparative purposes of mother who did receive unemployment insurance.  Employment insurance statuses were obtained from the labour force statistics public dependency information. A longitudinal difference in difference statistical analysis was performed to compare the two groups of mothers.

Mothers who were not eligible for unemployment insurance had 5.6% children removed from home care, while mothers who did receive unemployment insurance had 1.1% children removed from their care. Overall the risk of out of home placement was 21% higher for children whose mothers were ineligible for unemployment insurance. The changes to welfare reform led to a prevalence rate of 21% more children being removed from the home when families had limited economic resources.

Methodological Notes

Le lien entre la situation financière et le maintien en milieu familial ou le placement par les services de protection de l’enfance demeure nébuleux. Par ailleurs, nous ne pouvons pas comparer les prestations d’aide sociale versées au Danemark aux prestations versées en Amérique du Nord, ce qui représente une lacune importante.