Project GAIN (Getting Access to Income Now) is designed to assist families at risk for child maltreatment in accessing economic resources, reducing financial stressors, and increasing income stability for the children and adults in the home. Despite the wealth of evidence that family income and poverty status are correlated with child maltreatment, it is unknown whether economic factors play a causal role in this association. Project GAIN was initiated as a means to seek to prevent child abuse and neglect solely by providing families with economic supports.
The goal of Project GAIN is to address the question: “How much maltreatment prevention can be achieved by intervening with at-risk families around economic stressors?” To date, there has been no rigorous research designed to test this critical policy question. If we knew whether and the extent to which economic support interventions reduce child maltreatment, and for whom such interventions are most effective, this would bring enormous value to efforts to design more effective prevention programming.
Overview of Project GAIN Model
The focal population for the GAIN intervention is Milwaukee families reported to and investigated by child protective services (CPS) who do not receive ongoing services (i.e., cases closed following an investigation). Rates of re-report among families deflected from CPS are estimated between 25-20% and many of these families will eventually have CPS cases opened.
Families referred to GAIN work with a Financial Advocate for 8-10 weeks. GAIN services include (1) a comprehensive eligibility assessment for an array of public and private economic supports, and assistance accessing these resources, (2) financial counseling - collaborative work with a GAIN financial support specialist to identify financial goals and steps to achieve them, and improve financial decision-making, and (3) access to one-time emergency cash supplements to alleviate immediate financial stressors.
The combination of these three “pillars” of the model are predicted to increase family economic stability and income level, which in turn are predicted to improve overall family functioning (e.g., reduced parenting stress and mental health problems, improved parenting skills and self-efficacy). The intention is that families may experience declines in the risk of child maltreatment because of increased resources for basic needs and/or indirect changes in family functioning.
Project GAIN is a voluntary program, and staff members have found that the majority of clients who are located, decide to participate, and are highly motivated to engage in this planning. The GAIN specialists focus mostly on high need issues, including challenges with rent, energy bills, or employment. Most (70%) clients receive some sort of monetary benefit, with an average of $680 per client over the duration of their participation in the program. Preliminary findings, using only administrative data, show a significant reduction in child maltreatment recurrence, which is measured as substantiated CPS re-reports, among various participant subgroups of treatment versus control group families.