Super-Utilization of Child Welfare and Other Services

Prepared for
Casey Family Programs

Reducing the number of children in foster care requires actionable policy and practice solutions. Identifying subpopulations of children and youth who are continuously using intensive or frequent services may shed light on those who are not getting the right types of support at critical junctures, being placed in overly restrictive environments, receiving too many ineffective services, or in need of better and different ways of meeting their extensive needs.  

This cross-sector project is looking at administrative data from two sites, the state of Tennessee and a three-county region in Florida including Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco Counties, to identify children and youth who are high users of child welfare, Medicaid, and other services; explore their needs; and study how to improve their outcomes and the system that serves them.

Project Goals

  1. Help child welfare and allied agencies achieve better outcomes for youth and families by providing more tailored and effective services earlier.
  2. Use findings to demonstrate the need for service coordination across systems to identify better strategies to serve these children
  3. Demonstrate how savings could be realized if more effective services are provided earlier and are coordinated across systems
  4. Demonstrate the value of conducting cross-sector research using existing data

Research Questions

  1. What are the distinguishing characteristics of super-utilization of child welfare and other services? And, are there different subgroups of super-utilization?
  2. To what extent do a child’s needs relate to super-utilization of services?
  3. Which children could potentially avoid super-utilization of services?
  4. After characteristics of service super-utilization are identified, which children should have had a high likelihood of super-utilization of services but for some reason(s) did not? What explains this distinguishing pattern?
  5. What predictors of services super-utilization were present at the time of the child protection hotline report or child welfare intake? What predictors of super-utilization of services were present before being reported to the child protection system?

Mathematica Policy Research is conducting the study in partnership with Casey Family Programs and our site partners, including the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, TennCare, the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, Eckerd, and Mindshare. Mathematica will lead the data management, linking, and analysis, including predictive analytics.