Who refers parents with intellectual disabilities to the child welfare system? An analysis of referral sources and substantiation

Sharyn DeZelar, Elizabeth Lightfoot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Parents with intellectual disabilities (ID) have higher rates of child welfare involvement than their non-disabled peers. One common explanation for the high rates of child welfare involvement is that they are more likely to be referred to child protection because of their substantial, ongoing involvement with professionals who are mandated reporters. Professionals are the largest overall source of child protection referrals in the United States, however prior to this study, there has not been any exploration into referral sources in cases specifically involving parents with ID in the United States. This study explored report sources to child welfare using the 2014 National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System data, comparing parents with ID, parents with other disabilities, and parents with no disabilities. Secondary data analysis showed that parents with ID and parents with other disabilities had higher odds of referral by social services personnel than parents without disabilities. Additionally, among cases that entered the system from both professional and non-professional report sources, caregivers with an ID had higher odds of case substantiation than those whose caregiver did not have an ID. Implications for practice, policy and future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105639
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Volume119
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Child welfare
  • Disabilities
  • Exposure bias
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Reporting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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