Financial Stability & Emotional Stability
Several approaches providing economic supports to families have demonstrated direct effects on child abuse and neglect.
If you feel like your finances are out of control, you are not alone! Many people worry about money. While common, a daily struggle to pay bills creates stress that can harm your family life and your child’s well-being.
What You May Be Experiencing
Your family is said to have “financial stability” if you have:
• The ability to pay bills on time
• A manageable amount of debt
• A 3 to 6 month emergency fund to protect you against loss of income What You Can Do No matter what your situation, you can take steps to move your family toward greater financial stability.
• Know where your money goes. Track your family’s spending for a month, and balance your checkbook regularly. These steps will help you feel more in control and will help you create a realistic budget.
• Get organized. Make sure you know how much each person in your household gets paid and when. Know which bills need to be paid out of each paycheck. Keep all bills in one place so they don’t get lost, and review your finances often
• Spend only what you make. Put away credit cards and use cash instead. This will help ensure that you buy only what you really need and want.
Get assistance to manage your budget to make it work for you
State and Federal programs include the Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), low-cost child care or housing, Head Start, and others.
• Get a bank account. Check-cashing services and payday loans charge high fees. One program that helps people access free or low-cost checking accounts is Bank On at http://www.joinbankon. org/#/about.
• Start saving. Individual development accounts (IDAs) match your savings to help you reach a goal such as buying a home, training for a new job, or starting a small business. Find an IDA program near you at https://prosperitynow.org/map/idas.
• Seek new employment opportunities. Work readiness, vocational training, job placement, and career counseling programs can help you find and qualify for new opportunities that may pay better and move you toward greater security
It is possible to achieve financial stability, even after a setback. The steps you take today will help create a brighter future for your family.
Strengthen Economic Supports for Families:
Strategies for Family Financial Security
Policies that improve the socioeconomic conditions of families tend to have the largest impacts on health.1 Strong empirical evidence consistently links low income to children’s development, academic achievement, and health,2,3 including exposure to child abuse and neglect.4 Policies that strengthen household financial security can reduce child abuse and neglect by improving parents’ ability to satisfy children’s basic needs (e.g., food, shelter, medical care), provide developmentally appropriate child care, and improve parental mental health. Policies can change the context for families by improving the balance between work and family (“family-friendly work”), thereby allowing parents to provide the necessary care for children and increasing the likelihood that children experience safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments. Studies show several “family-friendly” work policies reduce risk factors for child abuse and neglect, such as stress and depression.
Economic supports for families can be strengthened by targeting household financial security and family-friendly work. Strengthening household financial security can reduce child abuse and neglect by improving parents’ ability to satisfy children’s basic needs (e.g., food, shelter, medical care), provide developmentally appropriate child care, and reduce parental stress and depression, both risk factors for child abuse and neglect.4 Strengthening household financial security may also reduce children’s exposure to crowding and contribute to residential stability and stability in child care arrangements. Household financial security can be strengthened in various ways:
• Child support payments: States can modify how Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits are affected by child support payments. In many states, the child support payments are used by the state to reimburse itself, but states may also elect to allow some or all of the child support payment to be passed on to the custodial parent and child without any reduction in the TANF benefits. Allowing child support payments to be passed on to the custodial parent in part or in full without reducing TANF benefits increases household income.
• Tax credits for families with children (e.g., state and federal Earned Income Tax Credit, EITC) help low income families increase their income while incentivizing work or offsetting the costs of child-rearing. The federal EITC is a refundable credit originally designed to encourage work by offsetting the impact of federal taxes on lowincome families. The amount of the credit varies depending on income earned through work, marital status, and the number of qualifying children. State EITC’s are usually based on a percentage of the federal EITC and vary in their eligibility and funding amounts; approximately half of the states in the U.S. have enacted EITCs.5
• State options for managing federal nutrition assistance programs: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federally funded program managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provides cash benefits, which can only be used to purchase food, to low income households. States have several options that can facilitate access to SNAP (e.g., online application; frequency or simplicity with which households report household income or work hours; whether child support is considered in income calculations; disqualifications imposed).6 SNAP benefits help low income parents meet children’s basic needs for food. Because SNAP benefits allow a parent’s income from other sources to be used on things besides food, SNAP decreases family poverty and poverty among children.7 SNAP also reduces the severity of food insecurity.8
Family-friendly work policies change the context for families by improving the balance between work and family while ensuring economic security. This makes it easier for parents to provide necessary care for children.
• Livable wages allow working parents enough income to cover the costs of living and provide for their children’s basic needs (e.g., food, shelter, appropriate child and medical care), reducing the likelihood of child neglect. Its impacts on parental mental health may also improve parenting behaviors.
• Paid leave provides income replacement to workers on leave for family caregiving, bonding with a new child (paid parental leave), or personal leave taken to recover from a serious health condition (paid sick leave) or get rested and re-energized (paid vacation). Paid leave can reduce risk factors for child abuse and neglect (e.g., parental stress).
• Flexible and consistent schedules provide workers with a predictable pattern of work and/or allow for adaptability within the work environment. Flexible schedules include flexibility in work scheduling (e.g., compressed work weeks, flexible beginning/ending times to work day, flexibility in scheduling shifts and breaks to allow for child care coverage), flexibility in the number of hours worked (e.g., part-time work), and flexibility in the workplace location (e.g., home office, satellite location, alternate location). Inconsistent schedules or shift-work can make it challenging to balance work and family responsibilities, which includes obtaining stable child care and access to child care assistance.
1. Frieden, T. R. (2010). A framework for public health action: The health impact pyramid. American Journal of Public Health, 100, 590-595. 2. Cooper, K., & Stewart, K. (2013). Does money affect children’s outcomes? A systematic review. York, UK: Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Retrieved from
3. Shonkoff, J., Garner, A., & Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care, and Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. (2012). The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress. Pediatrics, 129(1), e232-e246.
4. Stith, S. M., Liu, T., Davies, L. C., Boykin, E. L., Alder, M. C., Harris, J. M., Som, A., McPherson, M., & Dees, J. E. M. E. G. (2009). Risk factors in child maltreatment: A meta-analytic review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 13-29.
5. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (2015). Policy basics: The Earned Income Tax Credit. Retrieved from . org/research/federal-tax/policy-basics-the-earned-income-tax-credit.
6. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). (2013). State options report, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Retrieved from
7. Tiehen, L., Jolliffe, D., & Gunderson, C. (2012). Alleviating poverty in the United States: The critical role of SNAP benefits. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
8. Gibson-Davis, C., & Foster, E. M. (2006). A cautionary tale: Using propensity scores to estimate the effect of Food Stamps on food insecurity. Social Service Review, 80, 93-126.