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September/October 2016Vol. 17, No. 7Special Initiative: National Hispanic Heritage Month

Each year, National Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15 to October 15, celebrates the histories, cultures, and contributions of the United States' Hispanic/Latino community. Starting in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson, the initiative was expanded and made into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. The dates were chosen to honor several Latin American countries that celebrate their independence day on or near September 15.1

While at a national level, Hispanic children are slightly underrepresented in child welfare, there are significant State and regional differences in representation.2 It is important for child welfare professionals who work with Hispanic families to be aware of and sensitive to the concerns of these families and the barriers they face, such as language or cultural differences. Being trained in cultural competence and providing families with materials and information in their native language can help child welfare professionals better serve this population.

Child welfare cases involving immigration issues can be particularly challenging due to many professionals' unfamiliarity with immigration issues, changing legislation, and a lack of resources for addressing the unique challenges that arise in these cases. Immigration issues vary from State to State, data on the immigration status of parents and families are not uniformly collected, and some States may not collect information at all. Also, some families may be reluctant to voluntarily share their immigration status out of fear of government systems.

For more information on working with Hispanic families, see the following resources:


The Center on Immigration and Child Welfare

Child Welfare Information Gateway

The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. (

National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections

1 Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua celebrate their independence day on September 15, while Mexico and Chile celebrate on September 16 and 18, respectively (
2 Dettlaff, A. (2011). Disproportionality of Latino children in child welfare. In D.K. Green (ed.), Challenging racial disproportionality in child welfare: Research, policy & practice (pp. 119–129).