Racial disparities in access to needed child welfare services and worker-client engagement

Tyrone Cheng, Celia C. Lo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


We studied secondary data from 2896 parents involved in the child welfare system, seeking any racial disparities in parents' receipt of needed services; in accessibility of services; and in caseworkers' engagement with parents. Our sample was extracted from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being. We used generalized least squares random-effects modeling for panel data, separately with 3 ethnicity subsamples, to evaluate associations between receipt of needed services and several explanatory variables. For all 3 subsamples, results showed that services receipt was associated with availability of services, with problematic service access, and with client refusal of services. Results showed Hispanics were likeliest to receive services. African Americans whose services access had been problematic were less likely to receive services than were Whites encountering the same access problems. Reduced rates of services receipt among African Americans appeared associated with caseworker effort to maintain good relationships with clients. Among Hispanics, caseworker assistance with goal attainment was associated positively with services receipt. Implications for social work practice and child welfare services are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1624-1632
Number of pages9
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Access to services
  • Child welfare
  • Racial disparities
  • Worker-client engagement


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