Missing out on help they may need
Poor Latino kids less likely to enter state’s welfare system
— reported by the Houston Chronicle
Poor Hispanic children are less likely than anyone else in poverty to come in contact with the Texas child welfare system, and although experts speculate that their close-knit family structure plays a role, they also worry that abuse and neglect may be going undetected.
The disparity is especially perplexing because poverty, cited as a factor behind the disproportionate placement of other minorities in foster care, is even more pervasive in the Hispanic community.
More than 60 percent of the state’s children who enter the child welfare system come from families earning less than $10,000 annually, according to a recent state report. Yet, even though Hispanics represent most of the children living in such extreme poverty, they are far less likely to end up in foster care than their low-income black and Anglo peers.
The child welfare reference to the Hispanic paradox comes as no surprise to Markides, a professor and director of the Division of Sociomedical Sciences at UTMB. It only makes sense, he said, that the same support network, which goes well beyond the immediate family, also provides a protective buffer for the children.
Some, too, believe a chronic shortage of Spanish-speaking caseworkers makes it more difficult to thoroughly investigate cases of reported abuse and neglect.
State officials say they don’t know what percentage of their caseworkers speak Spanish, only that 1.4 percent consider it their primary language. Still, in a state where 44 percent of children are Hispanic, only 23 percent of the CPS caseworkers say they are Hispanic. And in the Houston area, despite a 40 percent Hispanic child population, only 10 percent of the caseworkers are Hispanic.
Officials say they use interpreters when a Spanish-speaking caseworker isn’t available. But language can still be a problem, experts say.