Disproportionality in Illinois Child Welfare

Children & Family Research Center, Nancy Rolock, Updated October 2008

In this report we look at disproportionate representation in the child welfare system in Illinois for children of different races/ethnicities. Since geography (where a child lives) plays a significant factor in child welfare outcomes, and since there is wide variation in the racial composition of the state, we look at this issue by region within the state — Cook County, Northern, Central and Southern regions. We employ an innovative method for examining racial over/under representation — a weighted risk ratio.

When the racial composition varies from region to region, it makes it difficult to compare one region to the next. In short, this method takes into consideration the racial makeup of the state when looking at disparity within a region. In Illinois, the point of entry into foster care is the point at which the greatest disparity exists. Once in care, groups of children from different races/ethnicities have different likelihoods of continuity, stability, and permanence. In this report we examined disproportionality at these different stages and decision points to assess over and under representation in child welfare in Illinois.

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