Child welfare involvement impacts a significant number of families in this country, and can have severe and long-term impacts on children, including poor developmental, physical and mental health, negative educational outcomes, and disproportionately impacts low-income families of color. In 2018, reports alleging child abuse and neglect involved approximately 7.8 million children in the U.S., and nearly 678,000 children were found to be victims of child abuse or neglect. More specifically in Philadelphia, roughly 35,000 reports were called into the child hotline in 2019, of which about 5,000 children were substantiated victims.
Evidence suggests that access to greenspace, such as grass, trees, and parks, is protective against stress and violent crime. Neighborhood greening interventions (e.g., trash removal, planting of new grass and trees, and installation of low wooden fences) may therefore serve as a promising strategy to mitigate and decrease the risks of child maltreatment, specifically in historically disadvantaged neighborhoods. However, little is known regarding the impact of place-based interventions.
Our team will evaluate the impact of neighborhood greenspace on the risk of child maltreatment in Philadelphia. Given our emphasis on addressing neighborhood investment as part of this project, we will begin by identifying and engaging community stakeholders who can inform study development and help interpret study findings. We plan to conduct serial, cross-sectional studies to estimate the association between residential tree canopy—or areas in Philadelphia that are shaded by trees—with neighborhood risk of child maltreatment. We will use publicly available data from the Urban Tree Canopy assessment for Philadelphia to determine residential tree canopy, and will determine the neighborhood risk of child maltreatment using data from the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) that includes reports of child maltreatment, child maltreatment cases accepted for DHS services, and foster care placements over the same time period.
Next, we will conduct a secondary analysis of a prior study that randomized clusters of vacant lots to a greening intervention or a trash pick-up intervention that occurred from 2011 to 2014. We will compare child maltreatment outcomes in neighborhoods near vacant lots that underwent one of the two interventions with neighborhoods near vacant lots that experienced no intervention to determine the impact of greening interventions on neighborhood child maltreatment risk.
We hope that our findings will help illuminate the link between the neighborhood environment and risk of child maltreatment, and may identify policy opportunities for mitigating the risk of child maltreatment while directly addressing the built environment of historically disinvested neighborhoods.
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. Examining Impacts of Neighborhood Greening Interventions on Child Maltreatment [Online]. Available at: http://www.policylab.chop.edu [Accessed: plug in date accessed here].