Emily Putnam-Hornstein, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Southern California

Putnam-Hornstein is an expert in child maltreatment and public child welfare systems. She maintains an appointment as a research associate for the Child Welfare Performance Indicators Project at UC Berkeley’s Center for Social Services Research, a longstanding child welfare data and research collaboration with the California Department of Social Services (CDSS).

Putnam-Hornstein is also a member of the Data Linkage Committee for California’s Child Welfare Council, the Society for Social Work and Research, the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and the National Association of Social Workers. Her teaching interests include quantitative methods, child and family policy, and child welfare practice. Before pursuing her PhD, Putnam-Hornstein worked as a child welfare caseworker in New York City.

Putnam-Hornstein made a presentation to the Commission about the risk factors of abuse and neglect in young children and the value of using predictive data to better protect and serve young children. Her talk addressed the involvement of children 0-5 with Child Protective Services for Orange County and the potential to link Child Welfare Data with Child Data Sources.

Putnam-Hornstein is one of the two principal investigators of the Children’s Data Network (CDN) a data and research collaborative funded by First 5 LA, housed at the USC School of Social Work, and developed in partnership with the California Child Welfare Indicators Project.

The CDN worked with the Commission to pilot a program that linked Bridges Newborn Assessment records to already linked birth and child protection records. The goal was to determine the feasibility of linking these three data sources to generate prevention-focused information.

Data integration projects assist in describing children served by home visiting programs in the context of the broader population of children in a community, the researcher explained. These types of projects also help determine whether the highest risk children are being targeted and engaged in these programs by looking at maltreatment and other outcomes.

In a prospective study that used retrospective data, Putnam-Hornstein uncovered predictable risk factors including maternal age, maternal education levels and unknown paternity. But her work also highlighted the ways other risk factors, including low birth-weight, might predict child welfare involvement.

One of the intentions of her work is to determine whether children participating in Commission-funded home visitation programs are less likely to have involvement with the child welfare system than a comparable cohort during the first five years.

“Research increasingly points to children under age 5 as a population acutely vulnerable to the consequences of maltreatment. A better understanding of the socio-demographic and health characteristics of children most likely to experience abuse or neglect between birth and age 5 is critical to improving and garnering support for prevention efforts,” she said. “Population-level knowledge concerning the distribution of risk can be leveraged to enable a strategic and equitable matching of public resources to community need.”

Click here to review her presentation to the Commission.