Cost-benefit analysis may be viewed as a way to calculate society's "return on investment" from an activity or program. These analyses attempt to calculate the actual costs of delivering services and the monetary value of improving particular outcomes for children and families, and to measure whether the benefits exceed the costs. Cost-benefit analysis is often used at a macro level to compare programs that achieve different outcomes (for example, deciding whether to fund a child abuse prevention program or a program to reduce youth violence) or to measure the value of a particular program.
To do a cost-benefit analysis, programs must first accurately calculate their costs. Programs also must establish a causal relationship between the program and particular outcomes (benefits) through an outcome evaluation. Cost-benefit analyses then attach dollar values to those benefits. For example, if a program can demonstrate that it led to a 10 percent reduction in out-of-home care services, it can attach a value to those services to determine the program's monetary benefit.
Child abuse prevention program benefits may include:
- Reduced health and mental health care costs
- Reduced costs of out-of-home care services
- Reduced costs of child welfare services
- Reduced law enforcement and judicial system costs for intervention in cases of child abuse and neglect
- Increased earnings of the child's family members
Although much more difficult to quantify, some cost-benefit analyses also attempt to account for a program's nonmonetary benefits, such as:
- Reduced personal and family stress
- Fewer incidents of child abuse
- Improved social functioning of the children
- Improved physical health
- Improved mental health
- Improved educational achievement
Programs can then compare the program's costs to its benefits. If benefits exceed costs, the program has established an economic justification for continuing these services. If not, programs will have to look for another justification (ethical, political, socially equitable).
The Business Case for Home Visiting: Smart Investments That Support Children, Parents, and a Growing Economy (PDF - 529 KB)
The Pew Center on the States (2011)
Explains the importance of home visiting services and presents evidence that early childhood development investments will benefit the economy in the future.
Benefits and Cost-Savings Due to Respite (PDF - 55 KB)
ARCH National Respite Coalition Lifespan Respite Task Force (2009)
Summarizes the value of the uncompensated services family caregivers provide, the importance of respite in supporting those caregivers, and the benefits of respite for younger family members with disabilities and for caregivers of the elderly.
Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention: What is it and How Do We Know When it Works? (PDF - 563 KB)
Wisconsin Children's Trust Fund & Wisconsin Council on Children and Families
Explores the components of child maltreatment prevention programs, considers the findings and success, and challenges associated with measuring prevention efforts.
Child Maltreatment: Strengthening National Data on Child Fatalities Could Aid in Prevention: Report to the Chairman, Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives
United States Government Accountability Office & Congress House Committee on Ways and Means (2011)
Examines whether the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) fully captures the number or circumstances of child fatalities from maltreatment and the challenges States face in collecting and reporting this data.
A Cost-Savings Analysis of a Statewide Parenting Education Program in Child Welfare
Maher, Corwin, Hodnett, & Faulk (2012)
Casey Family Programs
Presents cost-savings analysis of statewide implementation of the Louisiana's evidence-informed Nurturing Parenting Program (NPP) between the 2005 and 2008 that aimed to impart parenting skills to child welfare-involved families.
Developmental and Economic Effects of Parenting Programs for Expectant Parents and Parents of Preschool-Age Children (PDF - 1060 KB)
McGroder & Hyra (2009)
Examines the individual and social benefits of investing in parenting education based on evaluation results of several effective programs.
Dollars and Lives: The Economics of Healthy Children (PDF- 113 KB)
Explores the cost to society of adults who were childhood victims of abuse and neglect to illustrate the cost-effectiveness of child abuse prevention programs. The factsheet discuss findings from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, the economic burden of neglect, the increasing costs of child maltreatment, examples of health care costs associated with child maltreatment, and how the impacts of child maltreatment on the labor force are estimated.
Evidence-Based Programs to Prevent Children From Entering and Remaining in the Child Welfare System: Benefits and Costs for Washington
Lee, Aos, & Miller (2008)
Estimates the monetary value of benefits Washington State would accrue if it implemented evidence-based prevention and intervention programs. The study found that 5 years after implementing such programs, the State would net long-term benefits between $317 million and $493 million.
Intensive Family Preservation Programs: Program Fidelity Influences Effectiveness
Washington State Institute for Public Policy (2006)
Reviews Intensive Family Preservation Programs' fidelity and estimates the costs and benefits of adhering closely to the program model.
Reducing Crime by Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: Home Visiting Cuts Abuse and Neglect in Washington (PDF - 881 KB)
Christeson & Wells (2010)
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Washington
Discusses the number of children abused and neglected in Washington State and highlights the cost effectiveness of prevention programs that offer high-quality in-home parent coaching to at-risk parents.
Strengthening Families, Strengthening the Public Purse?
Prevention Action (2013)
Shares findings from a cost-benefit analysis of the Strengthening Families Program in Kansas that showed the program resulted in savings of nearly $10 for every dollar invested because it greatly reduced the time children spent in out-of-home care.
Strengthening Benefit-Cost Analysis for Early Childhood Interventions: Workshop Summary
National Research Council, Institute of Medicine, & Committee on Strengthening Benefit-Cost Methodology for the Evaluation of Early Childhood Interventions
Describes the information and analysisâ€”and the discussions that ensuedâ€”presented at a workshop that was held to explore ways to strengthen benefit-cost analysis of early childhood interventions.