Project GAIN (Getting Access to Income Now) was temporarily offered as a program to assist families at risk for child maltreatment in accessing economic resources, reducing financial stressors and increasing income stability to research the relationship between economic stressors and child maltreatment. Despite the wealth of evidence that family income and poverty status are correlated with child maltreatment, it was 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.
Overview of Project GAIN Model
The focal population for the GAIN research were Milwaukee families reported to and investigated by child protective services (CPS) did not receive ongoing services (i.e., cases closed following an investigation). Rates of re-report among families deflected from CPS are estimated between 20-25% and many of these families will eventually have CPS cases opened.
Families who voluntarily chose to participate in GAIN worked with a financial advocate for 8-10 weeks. GAIN services included (1) a comprehensive eligibility assessment for an array of public and private economic supports and assistance accessing these resources, (2) financial decision-making assistance--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 was predicted to increase family economic stability and income level, which in turn were predicted to improve overall family functioning (e.g., reduced parenting stress and mental health problems, improved parenting skills and self-efficacy). The intention was 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.
The financial advocates found that the majority of clients who decided to participate were highly motivated to engage in this planning. The financial advocates focused mostly on high need issues, including challenges with rent, energy bills or employment. Most (70%) clients received some sort of monetary benefit during their participation in the program. Preliminary findings, using only administrative data, showed a reduction in child maltreatment recurrence, which is measured as substantiated CPS re-reports, among various participant subgroups of treatment versus control group families.
The direct service aspect of the Project GAIN research ended in 2016. The project included approximately 5,000 families who were randomized between October 2011 and September 2016 and a subset of over 700 who completed a pre and post survey. Final evaluation results are expeced in 2021.