Despite the substantial body of literature on racial disparities in child welfare involvement in the Unites States, there is relatively little research on such differences for Canadian children and families. This study begins to address this gap by examining decision-making among workers investigating Black and White families investigated for child protection concerns in Ontario, Canada. Using provincially representative data, the study assessed whether Black children were more likely than White children to be investigated by child welfare, if there was disparate decision-making by race throughout the investigation, and how the characteristics of Black and White children contribute to the decision to transfer to ongoing services. The results indicate that Black children were more likely to be investigated than White children, but there was little evidence to suggest that workers in Ontario child welfare agencies made the decision to substantiate, transfer to ongoing services, or place the child in out-of-home care based on race alone. Black and White children differed significantly with respect to child characteristics, characteristics of the investigation, caregiver risk factors, and socioeconomic circumstances. When adjusting for these characteristics, Black families had 33% greater odds (OR=1.33; 95% CI: 1.26, 1.40; p=<0.001) of being transferred to ongoing services compared to White families. Among Black families, the assessed quality of the parent-child relationship and severe economic hardship were the most significant and substantial contributors to the decision to provide child welfare services. Implications for practice, policy, and research are discussed.
Child Abuse and Neglect, 73, 89-105