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