Ain’t Nobody Got Time For Dad? Racial-Ethnic Disproportionalities In Child Welfare Casework Practice With Nonresident Fathers.

Jul 2019 | Julia Arroyo, Barbara Zsembik, & Chuck W. Peek

Abstract: Background Given fathers’ potential role in bringing about desired child welfare case outcomes, researchers have begun to identify factors that impact agency efforts to identify and involve fathers. Racial-ethnic inequality and bias are not among factors studied, despite longstanding evidence that racial-ethnic minority children make up a disproportionate share of the child welfare population. Objective We set out to identify racial-ethnic patterns in initial casework activity with nonresident fathers and explore whether select factors explain racial-ethnic differentials. Participants and Setting Caseworkers of 1,754 children in foster care in four U.S. states were surveyed. Methods Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression models were used to identify factors associated with whether agencies identified, located, and contacted nonresident fathers. Results Agencies were less likely to identify nonresident fathers of Black, Latinx, and Multiracial children, relative to those of White children. Among fathers whom agencies identified, Black and Latinx fathers were less likely to be located. Among fathers whom agencies located, Black and Latinx fathers were less likely to be contacted. Whereas greater rates of international mobility among Latinx fathers explained agencies’ disproportionately low rates of contact, no other factor explained racial-ethnic differentials. Conclusion We find evidence of historical racial-ethnic disproportionalities across the three initial stages of casework practice with nonresident fathers in U.S. child welfare systems. Though more recent data are needed, this research suggests that racial-ethnic minority foster children are more likely than White foster children to be denied the benefits of agency-father contact, whether due to societal or systemic racial inequalities.

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