Nearly half of girls involved in the child welfare system become pregnant by age 19. While adolescent childbearing itself is associated with numerous adverse outcomes for mothers and children, child welfare-involved mothers face a unique set of challenges that further complicates teen parenthood. Research suggests that children who have been victims of maltreatment may be at higher risk of becoming perpetrators of maltreatment when they become parents. While past studies have examined the link between social factors and maltreatment perpetration in this population, little is known about how the health of young mothers and their newborn children may be related to maltreatment perpetration.
Through her Stoneleigh Fellowship, Meredith Matone led a five-year Philadelphia-based research study examining the health status of child welfare-involved mothers and their children. In collaboration with PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Meredith also assessed the effectiveness of state-funded home visiting programs for this target population and ultimately advanced new policies and practices to improve well-being of young mothers and their children.
This Stoneleigh Fellowship enabled Meredith to:
- Identify the association between maternal health, birth outcomes, and the perpetration of abuse and neglect among child welfare-involved mothers. Meredith is undertaking a research study of 15,000 pairs of low-income mothers and children in Philadelphia to: identify the prevalence of chronic physical and behavioral health issues among mothers, determine the association of maternal chronic health conditions with birth outcomes, examine injury and maltreatment of children in their first 24 months, and characterize the service needs of this population.
- Assess the effectiveness of interventions aimed at preventing intergenerational abuse and neglect in this population. PolicyLab is working with Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning to evaluate the effectiveness of home visiting programs across the state. Meredith will extend this to include an assessment of the effectiveness of these programs for child welfare-involved mothers and their children. She will also determine the capacity of these services to connect young mothers to other community-based services.
- Work with system partners to integrate research findings into policy and practice reforms. Meredith will translate this research into key findings and strategize with local and state system partners to implement improved policies and practices for pregnant and parenting adolescent mothers.