New Harvard Study Offers Cash to DC Mothers Accused of Child Neglect: Report

Kos Temenes
By Kos Temenes
April 11, 2024US News
New Harvard Study Offers Cash to DC Mothers Accused of Child Neglect: Report
A view of the campus of Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Mass., on July 8, 2020. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

A new study, which aims to determine whether poverty-stricken mothers who have been accused of child neglect could improve if they are given extra income, is being introduced by researchers from Harvard Law School’s Access to Justice Lab, according to a report by The Washington Post.

The study is specifically aimed at establishing whether providing the moms with additional cash would prevent their children from being placed in foster care.

It involves a random selection of a dozen black mothers, who will receive a monthly payment of $500 through October, in addition to a final lump sum payment of around $3,000 at the end of the study.

According to the Post, the women participating in the study have been under investigation for neglect by the district’s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA).

A further dozen mothers will receive between $50 and $60 for taking part in a short survey, followed by an hour-long interview with the Mother’s Outreach Network, which is distributing the funds, the Post reported.

“For this particular problem, folks are in a form of legal jeopardy,” Jim Greiner, the faculty director at Harvard’s Access to Justice Lab, said of parents accused of child neglect.

According to Mr. Greiner, the purpose of the study is to establish if these mothers could make a turnaround in a scenario where more funds are available to them.

“There’s a lot of strong feelings on both sides — and what we think should happen in that case is evidence,” he said. “Let’s actually look at what happens when you take steps to alleviate poverty.”

According to Mr. Greiner, the program is exclusive to black mothers who have been investigated for neglect with substantial evidence but who were not separated from their children by the decision of the Child and Family Services Agency.

While still in the early stages of pre-planning, the Mother Up program is about to commence the process of selecting and enrolling eligible mothers to receive the funds.

While there will likely be substantial pushback from opposing voices who say that the program will enable further neglect, Mr. Greiner said some believe it will ultimately alleviate the problem, as money is considered at the core of the problem.

Some advocates of the program have cited previous research, indicating that limited access to money for essentials, such as clothing, housing, food, legal support, and health care, plays an instrumental role in being investigated for child neglect.

Clare Anderson, a senior policy research fellow at the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall, cited another study, which reportedly shows that an overwhelming majority of families investigated by child welfare agencies have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, which as of 2023 stood at $49,720 for a family of three.

“There’s this societal narrative that child abuse and neglect is an individual action by an individual doing harm to a child,” Ms. Anderson told the Post.

“The evidence shows us that policy choices are contributing significantly to the activation and deployment of CPS in the lives of families.”

Ms. Anderson’s statements were also echoed by Robert Matthews, director of D.C.’s Child and Family Services, who believes poverty to be a determining factor in families coming under scrutiny by the CFSA.

The Post further stated on the issue that neglect appears to be the number one reason why children are removed from their parents and that in the majority of cases, the children come from a black household, citing a report by the agency to the D.C. city council.

This has prompted claims by some, who said that the system is deliberately targeting poorer families.

“We also want to combat negative narratives about black women, black mothers in particular, whose children are involved in the system,” Melody Wood, executive director of Mother’s Outreach Network, told the Post.

The program is now being tested, and the results will determine whether it will be made more widely available to other participants in the future based on its success rate.

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.