As pediatricians, we all work to identify and help address social needs. One important tool are tax credits available from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) Programs. Can addressing poverty through these programs decrease the risk of child abuse?
To answer this question, Kovski et al (REF) from the University of Washington in Seattle evaluated the association between tax credit refunds and child maltreatment reports in the month after families received their payments between 2015 and 2018 in 48 states and the District of Columbia. For each additional $1,000 in per-child EITC/CTC tax credit refunds, the state-level rates of reported child abuse decreased in the week of receiving a payment and in the four weeks following the lump sum payment by an estimated 5% overall; 2.3% in the week of payment and 7.7% over the four weeks following payment.
How important is this finding and what can we as pediatricians do to further advocate for public policies and programs that can reduce child maltreatment? To gain some perspective on this question, we invited Lynn Fullenkamp, MD, JD, and Suzanne Haney, MD, MS to share their thoughts with us in an accompanying commentary (REF). They remind us that while we can advocate for additional increases in income assistance programs like the two studied by Kovski et al, it is still incumbent upon us to continue to also screen and refer as needed in our offices to services and programs to address social needs such as food and housing insecurity. If you have not thought of tax credits as something that could reduce child maltreatment, link to this study and commentary and learn more.