• July/August 2010
  • Vol. 11, No. 6

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Children of Immigrants in the Child Welfare System

Over the past decade, immigration patterns have contributed significantly to the changing demographic profile of the child welfare system, such that 9.6 percent of children reported to child welfare agencies are living with a foreign-born parent or caregiver. These children may be at risk of maltreatment due to the stresses involved with immigration, acculturation, and differences in parenting and discipline styles.

In an effort to identify some of the characteristics of this group, American Humane and partners recently published two new research briefs based on data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW). The NSCAW was conducted with a nationally representative sample of children who were subjects of child protective services (CPS) reports in 1999 and 2000, including 3,336 children with native parents and 351 children with immigrant parents.

Children of Immigrants in the Child Welfare System: Findings From the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, by Alan Dettlaff and Ilze Earner, notes a number of similarities and differences between children in the child welfare system who have native parents and those of immigrant parents. For instance, children of immigrant parents were significantly more likely to:

  • Be female
  • Have a biological father in the home
  • Experience emotional abuse

Children of native parents were significantly more likely to:

  • Experience physical neglect
  • Have parents who abuse alcohol or drugs
  • Have parents with intellectual, cognitive, or physical impairments

In many ways, the two populations were similar, including their income levels and neighborhood and community factors.

The authors suggest that child welfare professionals need to assess the strengths as well as the risk factors of immigrant families reported to CPS.

The article can be viewed on the American Humane website:

http://www.americanhumane.org/assets/pdfs/children/pc-childofimmigrantpdf.pdf (436 KB)

Latino Children of Immigrants in the Child Welfare System: Findings From the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, by Alan Dettlaff and Ilze Earner, looks specifically at the characteristics of Latino families that come to the attention of the child welfare system, comparing families with at least one immigrant parent with families with native parents. For instance, compared to children of native-born Latino parents involved with child welfare, children of immigrant Latino parents were more likely to:

  • Be older and have older parents
  • Be poorer
  • Have a biological father in the home
  • Experience sexual abuse

Children of native Latino parents were significantly more likely to:

  • Experience physical neglect
  • Have parents who abuse drugs
  • Have high family stress

The authors discuss the results in terms of protective factors that may be present in immigrant families and the implications for child welfare agencies that work with these populations.

The article can be found on the American Humane website:

www.americanhumane.org/assets/docs/protecting-children/PC-LatinoChildreofImmigrant.pdf (432 KB)

Related Item

The Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services (BRYCS) website provides information and resources on immigrant and refugee children, including those involved with child welfare:

www.brycs.org

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