Latino Issues in Child Welfare

The following Hot Topics webpages may also be of interest:

From ACF, the Children’s Bureau, and the T&TA Network

Resources & Publications

  • Glossary of Child Welfare Terms in Spanish and English
    In the interest of better serving the needs of Spanish-speaking families and professionals who work with them, Child Welfare Information Gateway developed this glossary to ensure consistency and cultural relevance in their publications. By making this document available to others, they hope to support other organizations that are also striving to improve their communications and to promote, where possible, consistency throughout the child welfare field. Child Welfare Information Gateway provides a glossary of common child welfare terms translated from English to Spanish and Spanish to English.
    English to Spanish
    Spanish to English
  • Working With Hispanic Families
    The Child Welfare Information Gateway has compiled this listing of current national and State resources regarding issues relevant to working with Hispanic families.
  • Nuestra Familia, Nuestra Cultura: (Our Family, Our Culture) Promoting & Supporting Latino Families in Adoption and Foster Care
    This AdoptUSKids guide provides background information about Latino family and cultural values to increase our understanding of Latinos in the United States. It offers workers in the child welfare field specific tips and techniques for overcoming challenges and increasing effectiveness in working with potential foster or adoptive parents of Latino heritage. In developing the guide, the authors drew heavily upon the experiences and suggestions of Latino foster and adoptive parents, Latino youth who are in foster care or who have been adopted, and bicultural, bilingual child welfare professionals. The guide includes the following sections (each with subsections): (1) Introduction; (2) Latinos in the U.S.; and, (3) Working Effectively with Latino Families. Appendices include: (A) Cultural Competency Self-Test and (B) Recommended Resources. (September 2008)


  • Hispanic Child Support Resource Center and Hispanic Outreach Toolkit
    HHS’ Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF) Office of Child Support Enforcement created this Hispanic Outreach Toolkit, an addition to its online Hispanic Child Support Resource Center, to help raise awareness and ensure access to child support services throughout the Hispanic community. The Hispanic Child Support Resource Center provides materials to assist child support agencies in developing and enhancing partnerships with community and faith-based organizations as a means to provide child support information for underserved populations. As an improvement to the online resource center, the Hispanic Outreach Toolkit provides access to outreach materials specifically designed for the Hispanic Community, such as posters, brochures, public service announcements, partnership letters and other outreach materials to help state child support agencies create effective and culturally appropriate outreach initiatives. All materials are free and easy to access and can be customized to include information about the local agency or community-based organization in English and Spanish.

From Collaborating Organizations

Evidence-Based Practice, Research, and Reports

  • The Hispanic Family - A Picture of America’s Future TODAY
    The intent of this report from The National Alliance For Hispanic Families is to bring together data from a variety of reliable sources to highlight the critical realities of Hispanic children and families. While the full scope of current Hispanic conditions is not presented—either because the data is not reported, the gathering agency has established narrow age parameters, or for other reasons—the trends in key areas are vital to understand. (2012)
  • Disproportionality of Latino Children in Child Welfare
    At the national level, Latino children are slightly underrepresented among children in the child welfare system compared to their percentage of children in the general population. However, there is growing evidence of significant state and regional differences in the representation of Latino children, with overrepresentation observed in certain states and underrepresentation observed in others. “Disproportionality of Latino Children in Child Welfare,” written by Alan J. Dettlaff, is a chapter in the book, Challenging Racial Disproportionality in Child Welfare. This chapter examines current trends concerning the representation of Latino children in the child welfare system and the implications of both overrepresentation and underrepresentation on Latino children’s well-being. This chapter also discusses the need for culturally competent assessment to reduce biases that may contribute to disportionality and disparities, particularly among immigrant Latino children and families. Finally, the chapter reviews current research on strategies to improve outcomes for Latino children and families who come to the attention of this system, and provides recommendations for child welfare systems to improve their response to this population. (2011)
  • Negotiating Cultural Values and Expectations Within the Public Child Welfare System: A look at Familismo and Personalism
    This paper published by Child & Family Social Work examines, from the perspective of parents and child welfare workers, how cultural values and expectations are integrated and negotiated in public child welfare cases. The study focuses on the experiences and interactions of Mexican families with the public child welfare system in Southern California. Grounded theory is used to complete the content analysis. Findings indicate that workers’ efforts to provide culturally congruent services are limited by organizational structural factors. Consistent with the value of personalismo, parents stress the importance of a good relationship with their worker and the implications to their case. Specific recommendations to enhance service delivery include: (1) developing service models that are informed by families served; (2) developing/providing ongoing training and evaluation to ascertain if services are  culturally competent; and (3) promoting a change in child welfare policy that reflects the diverse needs of families. (2010)
  • Latino Child Welfare: Parents’ Well-Being at the Time of Entry
    This study by Cecilia Ayón examines community environment, social support networks, and other factors that impact the physical and mental health of Latino parents involved with the public child welfare system. Secondary data analyses were completed using data from the National Survey on Child and Adolescent Well-Being. The results reveal differences in parents’ social support structure (i.e., number of individuals providing support) and perceptions of community environment safety by immigration status. There were differences in satisfaction with social support by Latino origin. Regression analyses indicate that household income, age, and social support structure predict parents’ health. Implications for social work practice, policy, and future research are discussed. (2010)
  • The Mental Health Status of Latino Children in the Public Child Welfare System: A Look at the Role of Generation and Origin
    As the number of Latino children in public child welfare continues to grow, it is necessary to understand how their mental health is faring. This paper published by Child & Family Social Work examines emotional and behavioral needs among Latino children who had contact with the public child welfare system. The purpose of this longitudinal study was twofold: to examine the severity of emotional and behavioral problems, and to assess the predictive role of generation status and Latino origin. Latent growth models were completed using the National Survey on Children and Adolescent Well-Being. Implications for practice are discussed. (2010)
  • Latino Children of Immigrants in the Child Welfare System: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk
    Children in immigrant families are often considered at increased risk of maltreatment due to the stress and pressure experienced by the family resulting from immigration and acculturation. Yet, despite the rapid growth of the immigrant population over the last twenty years, particularly among Latinos, little is known about the prevalence of Latino immigrant families involved in the child welfare system, their characteristics, or the risk factors associated with maltreatment in these families, and how these factors differ from those in Latino families who are native to the United States. This article from the Elsevier Journal uses data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being (NSCAW) to report population prevalence estimates of the child and family characteristics, incidence of maltreatment, parent and family risk factors, and community and neighborhood characteristics of children of immigrants involved in child maltreatment investigations. The analyses then examines whether these factors differed significantly from those in families with U.S.-born Latino parents. Findings suggest that significant differences are present, and that many of the risk factors associated with child maltreatment are more likely to be present in native-born Latino families. (2009)
  • Bridging the Cultural Divide: Building a Continuum of Support Services for Latino Families
    Latinos account for 14.5% of the United States population and have become an integral part of this country’s identity contributing to the economic, cultural and social capital of this nation. This report by The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families critically examines the needs of Latino families, the current gaps in the continuum of child welfare services, and glaring funding inequities. (May 2007)
  • Latino Population Trends and Child Welfare Services: Reflections on Policy, Practice, and Research from the Latino Consortium Roundtable Discussions
    From the Advocate’s Desk has produced this paper, in which findings are presented from the Illinois Hispanic Family Profile and from Latino Consortium Round Table discussions regarding the unique linguistic, cultural, and transnational issues present in child welfare practice with Latino families. To provide a knowledge base for program planning and casework with Latino families, this paper describes the Latino population as a whole, the characteristics of Latino children and families involved with the child welfare system, and innovative Latino child welfare initiatives in Illinois. Policy, practice, and research implications and recommendations are presented. (2004)
  • Creating a Latino Child Welfare Agenda: A Strategic Framework for Change
    This report by the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. was developed based on a conference which addressed the specific needs of Latino families in order to formulate a national Latino Child Welfare Agenda that could be adopted by stakeholders around the country for future policy development. The report includes the following sections: Forward; Executive Summary; Making the Case: Latino Child Welfare – A Growing Concern; The Changing Child Welfare Policy Context; Latinos and Child Welfare: Social Demographics and the New Millennium; Latinos in Child Welfare: Language, Immigration and Culture; ASFA in the Context of Latino Child Welfare: Voices from the Field; Building a Framework for Action: Guiding Principles; A Strategic Agenda for Change: Creating a System of Supports; Conclusion; Appendix.
  • Latino Children of Immigrants in the Child Welfare System: Findings from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being
    Children in immigrant families are often considered to be at increased risk of maltreatment due to the stress and pressure experienced by immigrant families as a result of their experiences with immigration and acculturation. These risks are compounded for immigrants crossing multiple borders. Once in the new country, families continue to experience stress resulting from language barriers, unfamiliar customs, and isolation. The Migration and Child Welfare National Network, in collaboration with American Humane and The Annie E. Casey Foundation, has developed this series of research briefs. It provides national estimates related to the involvement of children of immigrants in the child welfare system. These research briefs use data from NSCAW to determine the proportion of children of immigrants among children who come to the attention of the child welfare system, and to identify the characteristics, risk factors, and types of maltreatment present within their families. The purpose of these analyses is to promote a better understanding of the characteristics and risk factors of immigrant children and families who come to the attention of the child welfare system. Findings are reported on the child and family characteristics, incidence of maltreatment, parent and family risk factors, and community and neighborhood characteristics of children of immigrants who were involved in child maltreatment investigations. In addition, these factors are compared to those in native-born families to examine how these characteristics may differ between immigrant and native-born families.

Resources & Publications

  • Nuestras Historias
    Nuestras Historias is a collection of 10 stories in Spanish about parenting by Mexican-American immigrant mothers, published by Rise Magazine. Stories explore the challenges these mothers face maintaining safe and stable homes and supporting their children and families while living in a new culture. Stories were developed in a writing workshop at the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, in Brooklyn, New York. Rise Magazine is written by and for parents involved in the child welfare system. Its mission is to help parents advocate for themselves and their children. (2011)
  • Immigrant Latino Children and Families in Child Welfare: A Framework for Conducting a Cultural Assessment
    Culturally competent practice with immigrant Latino children and families requires a thorough understanding of the impact that migration and acculturation has had on each family and how these experiences have contributed to their involvement in the child welfare system. The growth of the Latino immigrant population in the United States requires that child welfare agencies examine and adapt their practices to ensure effective response to the specific needs of this population. This article published in the Journal of Public Child Welfare, provides a framework for conducting a comprehensive cultural assessment with immigrant families in order to provide caseworkers with the information necessary to provide culturally relevant services that adequately respond to each family’s unique circumstances and experiences. (2008)
  • 'Bad' Mothers and Spanish-Speaking Caregivers
    This article from Nevada Law Review illustrates an intersection of Latino families with the child welfare system and highlights the importance and vulnerability of language in this system. (2007­)
  • Remove Barriers and Latino Families will Adopt
    The Latino Family Institute (LFI), a federally- and state-funded adoption and foster care agency in Southern California, understands that certain factors keep Latino families from pursuing formal adoption. Maria Quintanilla, Executive Director, Latino Family Institute, has identified procedures that neutralize barriers for Latino families, foster trust in agencies, and empower families. Her findings, summarized in this article, address issues unique to the Latino adoption experience. (2006)
  • Latino Children in Child Welfare: Fact Sheet
    This fact sheet developed by the Casey Latino Leadership Group provides information on Latino demographics, Latino families in child welfare and child welfare practice and policy implications. 
  • Latino Adaptation Guidelines-Child Welfare/Resource Families
    Latino/Hispanic children, youth, and families impacted by the child welfare system lack consistent access to adequate mental health services that are culturally and linguistically relevant and are grounded in the context of important socio-cultural and economic variables. These include foster care and immigration experiences and other traumatic events inherent in the life experiences of these children and families. More efforts need to be directed to ensure that mental health services that address traumatic stress are taking place as part of the concurrent planning towards achievement of permanence, safety, and well-being for Latino/Hispanic youth in out-of home care. This publication from the Chadwick Center provides: recommendations from the field, community examples/best practices, resources, and facts regarding resilience and family/youth engagement.


  • Fatherhood Lessons
    Delivering culturally competent services for Latino families, especially Latino fathers, represents a valuable opportunity and a compelling challenge. With sensitive program delivery, service providers have the opportunity to become recognized as an important resource and trusted member of the community, significantly improving the future for Latino men, and their families. This toolkit by The National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute begins by offering cultural and demographic information to help practitioners build an understanding of the issues facing Latino families. The remaining sections offer information, guidelines, and examples to deepen this understanding. (2003)

Resources from the States

  • Georgia: Culturally Competent Practice with Latino Families
    This training curriculum is intended to provide participants with an introduction to the basic concepts of culturally competent practice and specific skills and knowledge for culturally competent practice with Latino families.


  • The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families
    Since 1982, The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. (CHCF) has been dedicated to improving the quality of life for Latino children and their families. Believing that the most effective way to serve Latino families is by building upon their existing strengths and fostering self-sufficiency, CHCF provides a number of programs and services to the community in the areas of Youth Development, Child Care Services, and Family Health Education. Grounded in its direct services, CHCF is active on the local, state, and national policy arena around issues of child welfare and the well-being of Latino children.
  • Latino Practice Advisory Committee
    The Latino Practice Advisory Committee, a collaboration of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and the County Welfare Directors Association, was formed to address the growing population of Latino children and families in California communities and the child welfare system, and to facilitate the provision of culturally relevant services that respond to their unique needs.  Their website provides child welfare agencies with information and resources regarding Latino children and families, including: data, research articles, and reports; practice resources, toolkits, and training materials; policies, procedures, and guidelines; state and federal legislation; and strategies for organizational improvement.

  • The National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute
    The National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute brings together nationally recognized leaders in the fields of Latino health, education, social services, and community outreach. Their mission is to build upon Latino cultural strengths and traditions and offer a path for men of all ages to become Un Homebre Noble, or a noble man.


Last updated 1/30/14