A recently-published paper in Children and Youth Services Review by a team of authors, including DUPRI's Hedy Lee and Chris Wildeman, examines the geographic and racial/ethnic variation in child welfare system contact.
Prior estimates of the cumulative risks of child welfare system contact illustrate the prominence of this system in the lives of children in the United States (U.S.). However, these estimates report national data on a system administered at the state and local levels and are unable to detail potential simultaneous geographic and racial/ethnic variation in the prevalence of these events.
Using 2015–2019 data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System and Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, the authors use synthetic cohort life tables to estimate cumulative state- and race/ethnicity-specific risks by age 18 of experiencing: (1) a child protective services investigation, (2) confirmed maltreatment, (3) foster care placement, and (4) termination of parental rights for children in the U.S.
In the U.S., state-level investigation risks ranged from 14% to 63%, confirmed maltreatment risks from 3% to 27%, foster care placement risks from 2% to 18%, and risks of parental rights termination from 0% to 8%. Racial/ethnic disparities in these risks varied greatly across states, with larger disparities at higher levels of involvement. Whereas Black children had higher risks of all events than white children in nearly all states, Asian children had consistently lower risks. Finally, ratios comparing risks of child welfare events show these prevalences did not move in parallel, across states or racial/ethnic groups.