The overrepresentation of First Nations children and families involved with child welfare: Findings from the Ontario incidence study of reported child abuse and neglect 2013

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Child Abuse & Neglect, 90, 52-65

BACKGROUND: While there are national studies on the overrepresentation of First Nations children in the Canadian child protection system, there is a dearth of provincial/territorial studies.
OBJECTIVE: The objectives are to: 1) estimate the rate of overrepresentation of First Nations children and youth involved in child welfare investigations in the Ontario child welfare system and, 2) determine which factors drive the overrepresentation of First Nations children in child welfare at the investigation stage compared to White children.
PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: Child welfare workers completed a three-page data collection form at the conclusion of a child protection investigation.
METHODS: A secondary analysis of the Ontario Incidence Study 2013 was conducted. Incidence rates were calculated and bivariate analyses were conducted, comparing investigations involving First Nations children to investigations involving White children.
RESULTS: First Nations children represent 2.5% of the child population; however, they represent 7.4% of child maltreatment related investigations in Ontario. The rate of investigations for First Nations children was approximately three times higher than the rate for White children. Overrepresentation was most pronounced for investigations of neglect and exposure to intimate partner violence. Rates of substantiation, ongoing child welfare services, child welfare court, and placement in care were higher for the First Nations child population.
CONCLUSIONS: The findings provide a foundation for further research and analyses examining the compounding of disparities across the investigation process. Research is needed to disentangle factors that influence decision-making in the child welfare system and how these vary based on a child's race.

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Research Areas

Province / Territory
Canadian CW research
Journal article