Abstract: Children of Immigrants in the Child Welfare System: Characteristics, Risk, and Maltreatment (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12106 Children of Immigrants in the Child Welfare System: Characteristics, Risk, and Maltreatment

Sunday, January 17, 2010: 10:45 AM
Pacific Concourse E (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Alan J. Dettlaff, PhD , University of Illinois at Chicago, Assistant Professor, Chicago, IL
Purpose: Children of immigrants represent one-fifth of all children under 18 in the United States. Children in immigrant families are often considered at increased risk of maltreatment due to the stress and pressure experienced by the family system resulting from immigration and acculturation. However, the number of immigrant children involved in the child welfare system is unknown, as this information is not collected uniformly at the local, state, or national levels. As a result, little is known about the characteristics or risk factors present in these families. This presentation will report the results of analyses conducted to identify the characteristics and risk factors of children in immigrant families involved with child welfare systems, and to examine differences as compared to children with U.S.-born parents.

Method: Data are from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), a nationally representative sample of children who were subjects of reports of maltreatment to child welfare agencies. NSCAW employed a two-stage stratified sampling design to produce national population estimates. In the first stage, the United States was divided into nine sampling strata. Eight of these corresponded to the eight states with the largest child welfare caseloads. The ninth consisted of the remaining 42 states and the District of Columbia. Primary sampling units (typically child protective services agencies) were selected from within these nine strata. In the second stage, 5,501 children ages 0 to 14 were selected from lists of closed investigations or assessments from the sampled agencies. Sampling within primary sampling units was stratified by age, type of maltreatment, and receipt of services. Data were analyzed in Stata 10.0 using survey commands to adjust for the sampling design. Significance tests are based on the Pearson chi-square statistic converted to an F-statistic using a second-order Rao and Scott correction.

Results: Analyses indicate that children of immigrants represent 9.8% of all children reported to child welfare agencies. Children of immigrants are significantly more likely to be reported for allegations of sexual abuse (F=5.57; p=.0207) and emotional abuse (F=35.2; p=.0000), while children of natives are more likely to be reported for neglect (F=40.2; p=.0000). However, overall rates of maltreatment are not significantly different. Additionally, children in immigrant families are less likely to experience many of the risk factors commonly associated with maltreatment, including parental substance use, mental health problems, physical and intellectual impairments, economic strain, and poor parenting skills. However, children of immigrants are more likely to live in homes that experience domestic violence.

Implications: This study provides new information on the characteristics and risk factors of children of immigrants who come to the attention of child welfare systems. These data also highlight important differences between immigrant and U.S-born families. Particularly, these data indicate that although immigrant families may experience stress resulting from immigration and acculturation, they may not be at greater risk of maltreatment. Further, children in U.S.-born families are more likely to experience many of the risk factors associated with maltreatment. These differences are important to explore and consider in the assessment process.