The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

The Relationship Between Parent Immigration Status and Concrete Support Service Use Among Latinos in Child Welfare: Findings Using the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAWII)

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 4:00 PM
HBG Convention Center, Room 001B River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Megan A. Finno-Velasquez, MSW, PhD Candidate, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Purpose: It has been suggested that immigrants involved with the child welfare system may face steep challenges to receiving needed services, due to issues surrounding legal status, language barriers, and a lack of caseworker preparedness to work with immigrant populations. While immigrant underutilization of concrete public services is widely documented, evidence is lacking on the use of such services among immigrants reported to child welfare for the purposes of reducing maltreatment. The purpose of this study is to determine whether access to and receipt of concrete services (including employment, housing, and legal services, income assistance, and Medicaid) by Latino families reported to child welfare is associated with legal immigration status. Analyses focus on relationships between parent legal status, family risks and caseworker characteristics, and referral to and receipt of concrete support services.

Method: Data were drawn from baseline National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being (NSCAW II) interviews conducted between April 2008 and September 2009. The sample was restricted to cases in which the child was Latino, remained in the home with a biological parent, and had complete data for all predictors (n=582). Analyses were conducted using Stata 12 with weights constructed to adjust for the complex sampling design. Pearson chi square tests using design-based F tests and p values conducted with the second-order correction of Rao and Scott were used to estimate differences in characteristics between families with U.S. citizen, legal resident, and undocumented parent caregivers. Weighted logistic regression models estimated predictors of concrete service referral and use.

Results: Over a third (37%) of Latino families were referred for at least one concrete service, yet only 16 percent received any. Families who had trouble paying for basic necessities (OR=5.52; 95%CI=2.43, 12.55), those with active domestic violence in the home (OR=4.41; 95%CI=1.94, 10.00), and those receiving ongoing child welfare services (OR=3.67; 95%CI=1.59, 8.50) had increased odds of referral for services by the caseworker.  Parent immigration status did not influence referral for services, however, of those referred, families in which the primary caregiver was undocumented had significantly lower odds (OR=.30; 95%CI=.10, .94) of receiving services. The odds of receiving services increased when the primary caregiver was unemployed (OR=4.34; 95%CI=1.09, 16.23), when there was domestic violence in the home (OR=6.89; 95%CI=1.30, 36.31), and with the receipt of child welfare agency services (OR=8.87; 95%CI=2.54, 29.53).

Implications: Findings suggest that undocumented parents who are reported to child welfare are less likely than U.S. citizens to receive services to mitigate economic stress and reduce maltreatment risk, even when need exists and a referral has been made. The consequences are concerning given that their children, most of whom are U.S. citizens, may not have their basic needs met upon contact with child welfare. Recommendations include policy reform that considers access to benefits for undocumented families who come to the attention of child welfare, and child welfare reforms that use preventative approaches to help immigrant parents navigate the service process and ensure receipt in order to prevent re-referral and placement into foster care.