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Increasing Access to Earned Income Tax Credits to Reduce ACEs

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) include economic hardship, parental separation due to divorce or parental death, parental incarceration, physical child abuse, child sexual abuse, child neglect, parental mental health problems, and parental substance use (Felitti et al., 1998). Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has shown promise for reducing poverty, child maltreatment, and parental mental health problems (Evans & Garthwaite, 2014; Klevens et al., 2017). Despite positive impacts, 1 in 5 eligible Americans do not receive EITC (Thomson, 2020). The proposed project is to provide a two-level strategy across 44 counties in the State of Michigan. 35 counties will receive Level 1, a community-education only strategy, which includes culturally-appropriate flyers and informational materials regarding EITC. The informational materials are intended to destigmatize receipt of EITC and provide critical details on who is eligible and how to apply. Level 2 includes the community-education strategy but also includes one-on-one concentrated benefits advocacy in 9 counties. The benefits advocacy will be layered into existing Parents As Teachers (Wagner & Clayton, 1999) home visiting programs, and will involve motivational interviewing techniques, assessing potential EITC eligibility, and assistance in scheduling and attending a meeting with a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) volunteer. A comprehensive process and outcomes evaluation will be conducted to assess the program’s success in meeting three overarching goals: (1) to increase economic security; (2) to increase family protective factors; and (3) to decrease ACEs.

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