Child Welfare Platform Design to Improve Outcomes for Children with Disabilities

46 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2024

See all articles by Ludwig Dierks

Ludwig Dierks

University of Illinois at Chicago - Department of Information and Decision Sciences

Vincent Slaugh

Cornell University

M. Utku Ünver

Boston College - Department of Economics

Date Written: March 2024

Abstract

Children with disabilities age out of the U.S. child welfare system without a family resource at disproportionately high rates, resulting in worse life outcomes. Child welfare platforms seek to serve these children but struggle to identify high-capability families and direct them to children with high needs. Moreover, families without the necessary skills and resources for children with disabilities might express an eagerness to adopt any child, failing to recognize their own limitations. This costs agencies valuable screening resources and undermines the platform's usefulness for caseworkers.

We model the foster care or adoption placement process for a platform serving low-needs and high-needs children and low-capability and high-capability families. The platform elicits each family's type, which is unobservable. We derive closed-form expressions to characterize three placement mechanisms: a naive maximal mechanism that aims to maximize the number of placements but neglects families' incentives, a maximal envy-free mechanism that maximizes the number of placements while accounting for families' incentives, and a max-min envy-free mechanism that puts extra importance on helping high-needs children. The superior performance of the envy-free mechanisms demonstrates the importance of accounting for incentives. We discuss managerial insights to inform the platform's choice of mechanism, as well as their recruitment and coaching efforts. We show that the ability to place high-needs children with high-capability families depends critically on the ratio of the number of low-needs children to families unable to care for high-needs children. This ratio affects three important strategic decisions: recruiting more families of different care capabilities, including more low-needs children on the platform, and coaching different types of families to better understand their care capability.

Keywords: Child welfare, non-profit operations, market design, mechanism design

Suggested Citation

Dierks, Ludwig and Slaugh, Vincent and Ünver, M. Utku, Child Welfare Platform Design to Improve Outcomes for Children with Disabilities (March 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4778791 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4778791

Ludwig Dierks

University of Illinois at Chicago - Department of Information and Decision Sciences ( email )

University Hall, Room 2404, M/C 294
Chicago, IL 60607-7124
United States

Vincent Slaugh

Cornell University ( email )

435B Statler Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-6902
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sha.cornell.edu/about/directory/instructors/vws8

M. Utku Ünver (Contact Author)

Boston College - Department of Economics ( email )

140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.bc.edu/utku-unver

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