Many child welfare professionals are familiar with racial disproportionality, the overrepresentation of children of color in the child welfare system. Based on recent NSCAW data, this study examines disproportionality in children remaining in the home following a maltreatment investigation—an understudied but high-risk population.
The study determines patterns for unsuccessful child welfare service plans, placement in out-of-home care, and recurring maltreatment. The study’s aims included examining variation by race or ethnicity in:
- Unsuccessful child welfare service plans and how the system responds when children are re-involved in the system
- Out-of-home placement of children who initially remained in their homes following baseline investigation
- Parenting behaviors following maltreatment investigation and the classification of those behaviors as maltreatment
Children of each race or ethnicity have unsuccessful service plans at approximately the same rates. African American children were overrepresented, however, among those who initially remained in their homes but whose service plans were unsuccessful over the next three years. African American children were also overrepresented among children who remained in their homes initially but were later placed in out-of-home care. White children and Hispanic or Latino children were underrepresented, however.
There were no differences in self-reported neglect among parents of different races or ethnicities. African American caregivers, however, did self-report severely violent parenting practices at higher rates than caregivers from other races or ethnicities, . Service plans for African American children were about as likely to fail regardless of whether caregivers reported severe violence in their households. In contrast, service plans for white or Hispanic children were much more likely to fail if caregivers reported severe violence.
Caregiver self-reported severe violence does not always result in re-reports or subsequent placement into out-of-home care. Thus, rates of maltreatment based on official reports or placements in out-of-home care are probably an underestimation of recurrent maltreatment.