Delineating disproportionality and disparity of Asian-Canadian versus White-Canadian households in the child welfare system

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Child and Youth Services Review, 70, 383-393

Objective: This paper builds upon the analyses presented in three companion papers using data from the 2003 and 2008 cycles of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS-2003 and CIS-2008) and the Ontario Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (OCANDS) to examine disproportionality and disparity of child welfare involvement for Asian-Canadian children involved in the child welfare system.

Methods: This study used CIS-2008 data adjusted by Census child population data to examine rates per 1000 and three disparity indexes (population-based disparity index [PDI], decision-based disparity index [DDI], and maltreatment-based disparity index [MDI]) to determine the representation of child maltreatment investigations for Asian-Canadian versus White-Canadian children involved in the child welfare system. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to determine the odds of case closure for substantiated child maltreatment investigations, and whether Asian ethnicity remained significant while controlling for child demographics and household composition, case characteristics, and clinical concerns.

Results: This study found that Asian-Canadian children were underrepresented in the child welfare system compared to White-Canadian children (13.9 per 1000 Asian children in the Canadian population vs. 36.1 per 1000 White children in the Canadian population). Child welfare involvement for Asian-Canadian children are almost 2 times more likely to close after an investigation than White-Canadian children. The three disparity indexes (PDI, DDI, MDI) showed substantially different results with respect to the representation of child maltreatment investigations involving Asian-Canadian versus White-Canadian children for physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional maltreatment, and exposure to domestic violence.

Conclusions: Disproportionality and disparity are complex phenomena. The variation in results derived from different methods of calculating representation suggests the need for greater clarity and consistency in the definitions and methodology in examining racial disparity in child welfare research. Some methodological considerations for future child welfare research with Asian-Canadian populations were discussed.

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