Adolescent Mothers Involved in the Child Welfare System in Los Angeles

Who are They and How Can We Help Them?

by Jane McClure Burstain

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The child welfare system is the primary mechanism for addressing child maltreatment once it has occurred with a process designed to reintegrate maltreated children back into their family or, if that is not possible, to find a suitable alternative. Currently, little is known about adolescent mothers who maltreat their children, their outcomes, or what happens to them during the reunification process. This dissertation takes the first step in filling that void using the population of maltreating adolescent mothers involved in the Los Angeles County child welfare system in 2003 and 2004. The author finds that placing a child with an adolescent mother’s relative decreases the likelihood that she will regain custody. Extending the time period in which an adolescent mother has to resolve her underlying problems, however, significantly increases the chance that she will regain custody.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    The Child Welfare System And Adolescent Mothers

  • Chapter Three

    Conceptual Framework For Understanding Successful Reunification With Adolescent Mothers And Their Children

  • Chapter Four

    Data Collection In Los Angeles County

  • Chapter Five

    Adolecent Mothers: Individual Level Characteristics

  • Chapter Six

    Adolescent Mothers: Procedural Characteristics

  • Chapter Seven

    Procedural Characteristics And Reunification Outcomes

  • Chapter Eight

    Policy And Research Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Systematic Literature Review

  • Appendix B

    Data Collection And Cleaning

Research conducted by

This document was submitted as a dissertation in September 2008 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Amy Cox (Chair), John Romley, and Lionel Galway.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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