Fong's research examines poverty, social policy, children and youth, education, and family life. Specifically, she studies how families engage with state systems, how these systems affect families, and how these processes perpetuate adversity and inequality. Much of her current work focuses on Child Protective Services, drawing on administrative data as well as fieldwork with mothers, child welfare agency staff, and professionals mandated to report child maltreatment. Other projects examine school choice and residential decision-making.
Draws on administrative data from Connecticut, revealing substantial inequality in the prevalence of Child Protective Services contact by the demographic characteristics of children's residential neighborhoods (poverty rate and racial composition).
Draws on in-depth interviews with poor parents to discuss contexts of poverty that provided pathways to child welfare involvement. Poverty created environments of desperation and disadvantage, combined with reliance on supports that reported parents to child welfare agencies.
Analyzes fieldwork in Connecticut to examine the wide reach of child protective services intervention and its implications for families.
Analyzes interviews in Boston and examines how parents selecting schools assess their social network ties as information sources. The study finds that parents privilege information from those they perceive to have affinity and authority, and these evaluative criteria map onto disparate networks to engender unequal mobilization of information from social networks in school choice.
Argues based on in-depth interviews that concerns about Child Protective Services reports shape low-income mothers' engagement with educational, medical, social services, and other systems in ways that may preclude opportunities for assistance and reinforce a sense of constraint in families' institutional interactions.
Discusses how school choice deadlines constrains access to highly-desired schools for students registering late. Drawing on administrative, survey, and interview data in Boston, this study finds that late registration is common and highly stratified. Contexts of instability and bureaucratic complexity serve as barriers to registering months in advance, and parents describe disengagement from the school system following their late registration.