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Sticks or Carrots? Conditional Cash Transfers and Their Effect on Child Abuse and Neglect: Researchers Observe Both Benefits and Harms of CCT Programs

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 38 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2014 Pages: 372-382
Keetie Roelen
Date Published
March 2014
11 pages
This article reviews both the benefits and potential harms that can result from "conditional cash transfer" (CCT) programs, which tie cash payments to families to caregiver and child behaviors that promote children's well-being (the absence of abuse or neglect and support of children's education and health).
CCTs are premised on the recognition that poverty and lack of resources can undermine caregivers' abilities to provide quality care to children. CCTs can ameliorate these effects of poverty and provide incentives for caregivers to be attentive to measures that promote positive child development. Some examples of the achievement of these intended effects of CCTs are presented in this article. Evidence is emerging, however, that features and mechanisms of CCTs may also have unforeseen adverse incentives. In Botswana, for example, social workers have reported that some caregivers are motivated by monetary incentives only while having no genuine interest in a supportive interaction with their children. Experience in Mozambique has indicated that if foster parents are not adequately selected and prepared, cash payments in themselves do not prevent child abuse and neglect. In addition, although the prospect of regular receipt of additional money may encourage caregivers to commit to better care for their children, the pressure to initiate and maintain the required behaviors may create more stress, which then increases the risk for child abuse. Another issue pertains to the quality of community services on which parents rely to improve their children's well-being. The lack of the availability or quality of education and health services, as well as training to improve care-giving can undermine the achievement of improved child development. Evaluation measures for CCTs must be expanded to measure the occurrence of these potential adverse effects of CCTs, so that gaps or unintended consequences of these programs can be identified and addressed. 12 listings for further reading