Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Government Dept.


Nicholas Jacobs

Second Advisor

Nazli Konya


Over the course of their childhood, 37 percent of children in the United States will be reported to child protective services. This large group of children experienced not only potential abuse or neglect, but also a coercive and discretionary intervention by the state. This paper addresses the understudied policy attitudes and participatory behavior of children who interact with the child welfare system. I argue that children who perceive their interaction with the child welfare system as less justified- in terms of investigations, service provision, and removal from the home- will be less supportive of government spending on welfare programs. While factors such as poverty and educational attainment are correlated with interactions with the child welfare system, they are insufficient on their own to explain variations in support for welfare programs. The interaction with the criminal legal system through the punitive rather than preventative programs of child welfare also increase the likelihood that these children are later arrested, especially among those who perceive their investigation as justified. These interactions with the child welfare state and attitudes towards welfare spending were investigated through an original national online survey of 2,500 respondents aged 18 to 24. Ultimately this paper aims to contribute to work at the intersection of the welfare state and criminal legal system by better understanding the attitudes, values, and political behavior of children after contact with the child welfare system.


welfare, carceral state, feedback effects, self-interest, participation

Available for download on Monday, May 12, 2025