Sacha Klein is an expert on child welfare and racial disparities within child welfare; child maltreatment prevention; effects of early care and education on parenting; neighborhoods' effects on families, social policy and advocacy.
Areas of Expertise (9)
University of California-Los Angeles: Ph.D.
University of California-Los Angeles: M.S.W.
Occidental College: B.A.
- Association for Community Organization & Social Administration
- Child Abuse & Neglect Social Ecological Models Consortium
Self-Taught Techie Designs App to Get At-Risk Kids into Preschool
The Chronicle of Social Change online
“In all the years I’ve studied preschool access for abused and neglected children, I’ve never seen an approach as simple and effective,” said Sacha Klein, a researcher and professor at Michigan State University. “Rather than adding yet another arduous task to overworked child welfare caseworkers’ to-do lists, this system makes referring maltreated children to preschool fast and simple. It’s also inexpensive and easy to replicate. I don’t know why more child welfare agencies haven’t adopted this approach.”
Head Start Prevents Foster Care? To Be Decided
The Chronicle of Social Change online
But Youth Services Insider had never seen Head Start mentioned as a possible preventer of foster care, until a recent study authored by Sacha Klein, Lauren Fries and Mary Emmons. (Click here for the synopsis; the whole study requires subscriber access.)
The study did not get much attention in the media; just a few stories out of Lansing, Mich., home to study author Klein of Michigan State University. Those stories honed in on the finding that among a sample of youth whose parents had previous contact with the child welfare system, those participating in Head Start were 93 percent less likely to be placed in foster care than kids who received no early childhood education program.
Head Start may protect against foster care placement
Fox 47 online
Kids up to age 5 in the federal government’s preschool program were 93 percent less likely to end up in foster care than kids in the child welfare system who had no type of early care and education, said Sacha Klein, MSU assistant professor of social work.
Journal Articles (5)
Young children under 6 years old are over-represented in the U.S. child welfare system (CWS). Due to their exposure to early deprivation and trauma, they are also highly vulnerable to developmental problems, including language delays. High quality early care and education (ECE) programs (e.g. preschool, Head Start) can improve children's development and so policymakers have begun calling for increased enrollment of CWS-supervised children in these programs. However, it is not a given that ECE will benefit all children who experience maltreatment. Some types of maltreatment may result in trauma-related learning and behavior challenges or developmental deficits that cause children to respond to ECE settings differently. The current study uses data from a nationally representative survey of children in the U.S. child welfare system, the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being II, to assess whether young CWS-supervised children (N = 1,652) who were enrolled in ECE had better language development outcomes 18 months later than those not enrolled in ECE. We also explore whether the type of maltreatment that brought children to the CWS’ attention moderates the relationship between ECE and children's language development. After controlling for children's initial scores on the Preschool Language Scale (PLS-3), type(s) of maltreatment experienced, and child and caregiver demographics, we found that ECE participation predicted better PLS-3 scores at follow-up, with a positive interaction between ECE participation and supervisory neglect. ECE seems to be beneficial for CWS-involved children's early language development, especially for children referred to the CWS because they lack appropriate parent supervision at home.
Using Census and administrative data for 2052 Census tracts in a large urban county, this study explores the relationship between several indicators of social organization and neighborhood rates of child maltreatment for 0- to 5-year-olds. Spatial regression models demonstrate that neighborhoods with a higher percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds attending preschool or nursery school, both locally and in adjacent neighborhoods, had lower rates of early maltreatment referrals and substantiations. Neighborhoods with more licensed child care spaces relative to child care need, as defined by the number of 0- to 5-year-old in the neighborhood with working parents, had lower rates of early child maltreatment referrals. However, neighborhoods with a greater spatial density of child care center spaces, defined as the number of licensed child care center spaces or “slots” per square mile, had higher rates of early child maltreatment referrals. Neighborhoods characterized by concentrated socioeconomic disadvantage, inadequate resources for informal child supervision, and ethnic heterogeneity experienced higher rates of early child maltreatment referrals and substantiations, while neighborhoods with larger concentrations of affluent residents and immigrants experienced lower rates. These results point to the importance of community context in understanding child maltreatment risk. They also suggest that early care and education resources may deserve special attention when developing community-based prevention programs to reduce the maltreatment of young children.
Using a sample of 438 parents in Los Angeles County, CA, this study examines the role of proximity to social services in child neglect. In an extension of social disorganization theory, it seeks to understand the potential sources of support in neighborhoods for families. It uses ordinary least squares regression to examine driving distance from parents’ residences to four types of services (child care, domestic violence, mental health/substance abuse, and poverty). The results show an association between proximity to mental health and substance abuse services and parents’ self-reported neglectful behaviors. Additionally, higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage (poverty, unemployment, and low education), having older children, respondents being male, and respondents being older parents are associated with higher levels of child neglect, while being white is associated with lower levels. Overall, the findings suggest a potentially protective role of geographic access to mental health and substance abuse services in child maltreatment. Additional research on the pathways through which proximity to services influences child neglect is needed.
Using U.S. Census and child maltreatment report data for 2052 Census tracts in Los Angeles County, California, this study uses spatial regression techniques to explore the relationship between neighborhood social disorganization and maltreatment referral rates for Black, Hispanic and White children. Particular attention is paid to the racial–ethnic diversity (or ‘heterogeneity’) of neighborhood residents as a risk factor for child welfare system involvement, as social disorganization theory suggests that cultural differences and racism may decrease neighbors' social cohesion and capacity to enforce norms regarding acceptable parenting and this may, in turn, increase neighborhood rates of child maltreatment. Results from this study indicate that racial–ethnic diversity is a risk factor for child welfare involvement for all three groups of children studied, even after controlling for other indicators of social disorganization. Black, Hispanic and White children living in diverse neighborhoods are significantly more likely to be reported to Child Protective Services than children of the same race/ethnicity living in more homogeneous neighborhoods. However, the relationships between child welfare system involvement and the other indicators of social disorganization measured, specifically impoverishment, immigrant concentration child care burden, residential instability, and housing stress, varied considerably between Black, Hispanic and White children. For Black children, only housing stress predicted child maltreatment referral rates; whereas, neighborhood impoverishment, residential instability, and child care burden also predicted higher child maltreatment referral rates for Hispanic and White children. Immigrant concentration was unrelated to maltreatment referral rates for Black and Hispanic children, and predicted lower maltreatment referral rates for White children. Taken together, these findings suggest that racial–ethnic diversity may be one of the more reliable neighborhood-level demographic indicators of child welfare risk across different racial/ethnic groups of children. However, many of the other neighborhood characteristics that influence child maltreatment referrals differ for Black, Hispanic and White children. Consequently, neighborhood-based family support initiatives should avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to child abuse prevention and strategically consider the racial/ethnic make-up of targeted communities.
Over the last several decades, child welfare research has expanded and matured beyond mere descriptions of children's experiences in this service sector. Contemporary child welfare research entails more complex conceptual, methodological, and statistical approaches to examine children's service trajectories, the functioning of children and families, and the effectiveness of interventions for this population. Further, as recommended by Wulczyn, Barth, Yuang, Jones Harden, and Landsverk (2005), extant child welfare research is increasingly grounded in the broad and deep theoretical and empirical literature on child development. The group of papers in this special issue is reflective of the growing sophistication of child welfare research. In particular, this special issue brings together cutting-edge investigations of the experiences and functioning of the youngest and most vulnerable victims of child maltreatment. True to the goal of the special issue, the papers herein have expanded our understanding of the risk and protective factors for early maltreatment and child welfare involvement, of developmental outcomes and assessments for young children in the child welfare system, and of interventions that hold promise for preventing early maltreatment and addressing the needs of young children and families involved in the child welfare service sector.