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. NSCAW consists of 5,501 children sampled from completed child welfare investigations. The sample involved a two-stage stratified design, with the primary sampling units being county child welfare agencies and the secondary sampling units being children selected from closed investigations within the sampled agencies. The sample was divided into nine strata that combine to produce national population estimates. Data from the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) were used to estimate emotional and behavioral problems and need for mental health treatment. Data on the use of mental health services are based on an adapted version of the Child and Adolescent Services Assessment. Prevalence estimates were analyzed in Stata 10.0 using survey commands to adjust for the two-stage sampling design. Between group differences 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 42.8 % of Latino children involved in child welfare have a CBCL score in the clinical range, yet only 20.4% of these children receive mental health services. In comparisons of children of immigrants to children of U.S.-born parents, young children of immigrants (ages 2 to 5) are significantly more likely to have a CBCL score in the clinical range (F=6.47; p=.0089) than young children of U.S.-born parents (59.3% to 28.8%). However, young children of U.S.-born parents are significantly more likely to have unmet mental health service needs (95.2% to 55.6%; F=15.74; p=.0002). Among older children (age groups 6-10, 11-14), CBCL scores did not differ significantly. However, among children ages 11-14, children of immigrant parents were significantly more likely to have an unmet mental health service need (73.6%) than children of U.S.-born parents (41.0%) (F=6.63; p=.0093).
Implications: This study provides new information on the mental health needs and service use of Latino children of immigrants involved in the child welfare system. These data also highlight significant disparities between the need for mental health services and service use, specifically among young children of U.S.-born parents and older children of immigrant parents. Additional research is needed to understand the source of these disparities and to address this issue.