Methods: This study uses administrative data consisting of records of all children with maltreatment reports in 2005 from a Midwestern state child welfare agency (n=6270). Descriptive statistics were used to examine characteristics of children with (n=1383) and without disabilities (n=4887) with substantiated maltreatment in the child welfare system. Logistic regression analyses were used to compare characteristics of children with and without disabilities, and to examine placement rates of children with substantiated maltreatment reports, controlling for child's age, race, and gender.
Results: Findings from the analysis indicated that approximately 30% of the children with substantiated maltreatment reports in 2005 had a disability diagnosis is the state's child welfare system. Of the children with disabilities, 64 % were placed in an out of home placement, compared with 49% of children without disabilities. The most common disability diagnoses were emotional disturbance (37.5% of children with disabilities) and intellectual/developmental disabilities (10.7% of children with disabilities). Logistic regression found that children with a disability label with substantiated maltreatment reports were more likely to be white (O.R. 752, p<.001) and male (O.R. 1.417, p<.001) than children without a disability label. Logistic regression analysis showed that children with disabilities with a substantiated case of maltreatment were 2.158 times likely than children without disabilities to be in an out-of-home placement (p<.001).
Implications: This study demonstrates that in one of the few states that collects disability data, a substantial proportion of children with substantiated maltreatment reports have a disability label, and those children with disability labels are more likely to be in out-of-home placements. This points to the critical need for child welfare workers to receive training and support in identifying children with disabilities, as well as in providng appropriate services and supports for these children. Additionally, it points to the need for increased collection of disability data within child welfare to best create appropriate policies and services.