Racial disproportionality in the Idaho foster care system : a focus on Latinos and Native Americans



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The purpose of this study was to identify micro, mezzo, and macro level factors which may be contributing to disparities in the removal decision among Latino and Native Americans in the Idaho child welfare system. Additionally, this study explored what factors contribute to the decision to investigate a referral or substantiate a claim of child abuse or neglect. This study used a secondary data analysis of all families (n = 4547) referred for abuse or neglect to the Idaho public child welfare system between April 1 and September 30, 2009. It was found that children were more likely to be removed if they had previously been a victim of abuse or neglect. Native American children were 4.39 times more likely to be removed than White children and Latino children were 1.78 times more likely to be removed than White children. Additional positive predictors of removal were domestic violence, being on public assistance, being referred for "other" maltreatment type rather than neglect, and the county poverty rate. The only negative predictor of placement was being referred for physical abuse rather than neglect. The R2 for these variables was 17.09%. Additional significant results indicated that county variables, such as the presence of a field office in a given county and level of rurality, were factors in the investigation decision. Referrals for physical abuse were also more likely to result in an investigation than referrals for neglect. The child's age and a referral for "other" maltreatment type were negatively related to the disposition of a case. Finally, an assessment was conducted of disparity at various decision points in the child welfare process. It was determined that Native Americans, Latinos, and Blacks/African Americans all experience disparity at some point in the early decision-making process of a child welfare case. For Black/African American children, the greatest disparity occurs at the referral to child welfare. For Latino children, the greatest disparity occurs at the removal decision. Native American children also have the greatest disparity at the removal decision, although they experience disparity at nearly every explored point in the child welfare process.