The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Ethno-Racial Disproportionality in Child Welfare: Lessons From Analysis of Canadian Data

Friday, January 18, 2013: 10:00 AM-11:45 AM
Nautilus 5 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
Cluster: Child Welfare
Symposium Organizer:
Vandna Sinha, PhD, McGill University
Research on ethno-racial disproportionality in child welfare documents the over and under-representation of children from different ethno-racial groups in child welfare systems.  Existing research examines ethno-racial disproportionality at key points in the child welfare decision making process, mapping differences in the typical service trajectories for children from different groups.  Analyses of the factors which contribute to disproportionality highlight ethno-racial differences in underlying socio-economic conditions and in family risk factors.  They also draw attention to the role of institutionalized racial bias in shaping social service options and to the complex ways in which workers’ perceptions of different ethno-racial groups may affect their assessments. Cumulatively, this research has the potential to help identify specific institutional supports, practice models, and education/training efforts which may enhance the ability of child welfare agencies to address the needs of children/families from different ethno-racial groups.

While the literature on ethno-racial disproportionality in child welfare is large and growing, there are gaps in existing research.  The existing literature documents under-representation of Asian children in child welfare systems, but there are few studies which closely examine the profiles and service trajectories of Asian children who do come into contact with child welfare services.  Similarly, the overrepresentation of Aboriginal (Indigenous) children in U.S. and Canadian child welfare systems is clearly documented, but a limited number of studies examine Aboriginal overrepresentation in detail, and only a small proportion of these include data from the Aboriginal child welfare agencies which serve large proportions of the North American Aboriginal population.  Finally, there are relatively few studies of ethno-racial disproportionality in the Canadian child welfare system, in part because of limitations on the child-welfare data available in Canada.  While there are multiple, national level child welfare data collection efforts in the U.S. (e.g. NIS, NCANDS, and AFCARS), the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS) remains the only national source of disaggregated data on child welfare in Canada. Provincial/territorial administrative data systems are another important source of child welfare data in Canada, but the consistency with which ethno-racial data is entered into these systems varies.

This symposium brings together three papers which analyze Canadian child welfare data in order to address these gaps in the existing literature.  The first uses data from the 2008 cycle of the CIS to describe differences between child welfare investigations involving Asian children and those involving non-Asian children, and  to examine differences in the odds of out of home placement during the investigation period for these two groups.  The second paper uses data from the First Nations Component of CIS-2008 (FNCIS-2008), one of very few studies to collect data from a large sample of Aboriginal agencies, to examine differences in the profiles of investigations conducted by provincial/territorial and Aboriginal child welfare agencies.  The third paper uses administrative data from Quebec to examine ethno-racial disproportionality in that province, and to explore the implications of incomplete ethno-racial data for the abilities of child welfare agencies ot address the needs of children from different ethno-racial groups.

* noted as presenting author
Understanding the Over-Representation of First Nations Children: A Comparison of Investigations Conducted by Aboriginal and Provincial/Territorial Child Welfare Agencies
Vandna Sinha, PhD, McGill University; Nico Trocme, PhD, McGill University; Barbara Fallon, PhD, University of Toronto; Bruce MacLaurin, MSW, University of Calgary
See more of: Symposia