MEASURING RACIAL DISPARITIES IN CHILD WELFARE SERVICES
This dissertation provides empirical analyses on racial disparities in the child welfare system. The first essay examines racial disparities in the foster care placement decision and is followed by two essays that examine racial disparities in the post-adoption setting. Essay 1 provides a case study of foster care placements in Texas from 2000 to 2010. This essay describes the foster care placement decision using the theory of statistical discrimination. Results show black children are more likely to be placed in foster care when compared to white and Hispanic children. Potential sources for these disparities are the presence of caretaker drug abuse and financial problems. Essay 2 develops a multidimensional problem index to identify the families most likely to need post-adoption services, and the main factors contributing to the problems these families face. There are racial disparities in the multidimensional problem index. Black families experience economic problems at higher rate than white families. Child-level problems, especially socio-emotional issues are more common among white children relative to black children. Black children adopted by white parents have the lowest problem scores. The final essay shows which factors contribute to unmet demand for post-adoption services, and considers racial disparities in service demand and use. This essay uses a generalized maximum entropy (GME) estimation technique to manage the problems of small sample size, multicollinearity, and a lack of continuous variables. Families who adopt from foster care demand a substantial amount of tutoring, mentoring, and respite care; much of this demand is unmet. Black parents demand more tutoring and mentoring services than do white parents. White parents demand more respite care relative to black parents. Once a service has been demanded, unmet demand is always more common among black parents relative to white. Given the large number of minority children in foster care systems and the history of racial disparities throughout institutions in the U.S., developing robust empirical analyses of foster care placements and related service utilization is an important step toward creating more equitable and effective foster care services. The essays presented here are meant to contribute to this important endeavor.