The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

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

Kinship Care and Undocumented Latino Children in the Texas Foster Care System

Sunday, January 19, 2014: 8:45 AM
Marriott Riverwalk, Alamo Ballroom Salon C, 2nd Floor Elevator Level BR (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Jennifer Scott, MSSW, MIA, Doctoral Student, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Monica Faulkner, PhD, Associate Director, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Jodi Berger Cardoso, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Background: Increasing detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants has led to an increase in the number of children threatened by the trauma of placement in the U.S. child welfare system. Placement of children with relative or “kin” providers is one mechanism for mitigating the trauma associated with placement into foster care. For Latino and other racial and ethnic minority children kinship placements facilitate the child’s continued connection to their culture. However, few studies have explored the prevalence of kinship care placement for immigrant Latino children, especially with respect to how kinship placement decisions are influenced by the child’s immigration status. This study compares the likelihood of kinship placement for undocumented and documented Latino children in the Texas child welfare system.

Methods: We conducted a secondary data analysis of Latino children in custody of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) in 2009 (N=41,005) to examine the differences between kinship placement among documented and undocumented Latino children. Our sample included 9,418 Latino children who were in foster care. Only 400 children in the sample were undocumented. To mitigate the impact of disproportionate group sizes on significance, propensity score matching was used to derive a final sample (n=442) of children with legal status matched to undocumented Latino children along four factors: gender, age at time of removal, drug/alcohol involvement in the allegation and removal from a border county.  Binary logistic regression was performed to examine the effect of undocumented status on the likelihood of kinship placement (defined as relative placement at time of data collection in 2009) controlling for type of maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect, reference category no maltreatment).

Results: About 2.35% of Latino youth in care in the Texas foster care system are undocumented. Bivariate analyses comparing undocumented and documented Latino children suggest that the groups are significantly different. Undocumented Latino youth are more often female and older. In terms of placement, only 15.4% of undocumented Latino children were in kinship placements compared to 19% of documented Latino children.  After using propensity score matching to account for the sample size disparity, this difference was not significant. Logistic regression showed that, controlling for type of maltreatment, undocumented children were not significantly less likely to be placed in kinship care (Odds Ratio=0.776, p=0.346).

Implications: The lack of difference in kinship placement outcomes is an important contribution to the broader discussion on immigration and foster care. Findings from this study suggest that child welfare systems do utilize kinship placements for undocumented Latino children in Texas, at least at an equal rate in which kinship placements are used for Latino children with legal status. To support the continuation of this trend, programs and policies should clarify procedures for supporting kinship placement in complicated immigration situations and provide opportunities for cross-training workers on immigration and child welfare systems. Additionally, Latino immigrant communities may have kinship networks that are relied upon outside of the child welfare system model, though more research is needed to understand the characteristics of those ties.