IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Is the overrepresentation of the poor in child welfare caseloads due to bias or need?

Listed author(s):
  • Jonson-Reid, Melissa
  • Drake, Brett
  • Kohl, Patricia L.
Registered author(s):

    One hanging question in child welfare policy and research is whether there is an artificial overrepresentation of the poor in child welfare caseloads or whether this reflects the co-occurrence of poverty and need. In order to address this question, this study uses data from child welfare (report, assessment, service and re-report), income maintenance, special education, hospitals, juvenile court, public mental health treatment, and census data. Poor children reported to child welfare are compared to non-poor children reported to child welfare and also to poor children not reported to child welfare. Poor children reported for maltreatment had greater risk factors at the parent and neighborhood levels and higher rates of negative outcomes than children in either comparison group. Among children reported for maltreatment, poor children have worse outcomes, both within child welfare (e.g., recurrence) and outside of child welfare (e.g. juvenile court, hospitalization for violence) than non-poor children. These data suggest that the overrepresentation of poor children is driven largely by the presence of increased risk among the poor children that come to the attention of child welfare rather than high levels of systemic class bias.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Children and Youth Services Review.

    Volume (Year): 31 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 3 (March)
    Pages: 422-427

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:31:y:2009:i:3:p:422-427
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    in new window

    1. Fluke, John D. & Yuan, Ying-Ying T. & Hedderson, John & Curtis, Patrick A., 2003. "Disproportionate representation of race and ethnicity in child maltreatment: investigation and victimization," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(5-6), pages 359-373.
    2. Freisthler, Bridget, 2004. "A spatial analysis of social disorganization, alcohol access, and rates of child maltreatment in neighborhoods," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(9), pages 803-819, September.
    3. English, Diana J. & Marshall, David B. & Coghlan, Laura & Brummel, Sherry & Orme, Matthew, 2002. "Causes and Consequences of the Substantiation Decision in Washington State Child Protective Services," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(11), pages 817-851, November.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:31:y:2009:i:3:p:422-427. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.