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Training to help bridge gap for Hispanics not receiving early childhood services

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas research has found that Hispanic children entering the child welfare system in the United States had the highest need for early intervention services yet were the least likely to actually get help. A KU team is now offering training and curriculum for child welfare practitioners, administrators and policymakers to bridge that gap to deliver those services.

Michelle Johnson-Motoyama, associate professor of social welfare, received a grant in 2012 from the Lois and Samuel Silberman Fund of the New York Community Trust to assess the needs of Hispanic children in contact with the child welfare system in the United States and to develop training to better serve families. The findings indicated that, while Hispanic children age birth to 3 receive more referrals for early intervention, they often do not receive treatment or services.

“Research suggest Hispanic children, especially Hispanic children of immigrants in contact with the child welfare system, are at a high risk of developmental difficulties and are not getting the services they need for several reasons, including lack of coordination of services and many others,” Johnson-Motoyama said.

The disparity is especially troubling given that in 2003 the Keeping Families Safe Act was passed, requiring all children younger than 3 years of age in child welfare systems to receive a referral for early intervention services if they were determined to be mistreated. Johnson-Motoyama’s study analyzed data from the second National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.

She found that, relatively few children are getting referrals for early intervention services in cases of abuse and neglect and Hispanic children who are referred are all too often not actually receiving services. Nearly 35 percent of young Hispanic children of immigrants in cases of abuse and neglect nationwide got referrals, but only 10.9 percent received services.

“We suspect there are a lot of barriers to service access for this group, but we need to do more research to find out exactly what those barriers are and how they can be overcome,” Johnson-Motoyama said. “Past research suggests that immigrant families might not always know how to navigate complex child service systems in the U.S., or they may have concerns about legal status or questions about eligibility to receive services.”

As part of the training, they have developed a compilation of resources for service providers and a compendium of promising practices. The free webinar is set for 12:30 to 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27. KU experts will offer information on child maltreatment and the developing brain, the benefits of early intervention, policies linking child welfare and early intervention services, and promising practices from the field. The webinar is intended for child welfare and early intervention practitioners, administrators and policy makers and offers continuing education units for those that qualify. To register, visit http://bit.ly/1EpdmLY The Feb. 27 webinar is one event in a series of events and research provided by the Center for Children and Families regarding child development. This series is leading up to the March 2 documentary preview of "The Raising of America." 

The timing is pressing for several reasons, researchers said. For Hispanic children and families, it is important that, as the population grows, the system is able to deliver services that can benefit eligible families. For all children, being able to receive help early in life is vital. For society, it is imperative that children get help early that can prevent a multitude of problems that can manifest as they transition into adolescence and adulthood.

Among children who come to the attention of Child Protective Services today, maltreated infants and toddlers are at the greatest risk of developmental delay and are the single-largest age group entering foster care. However, only 18 percent of children less than three nationwide who should get a referral for early intervention services do.

“That figure, in and of itself, is very concerning,” Johnson-Motoyama said. “The development that takes place in early childhood is remarkable. We know from research that mistreatment and the problems that come along with it have long-term, negative effects on how people function as adults in society, and these effects cost our society billions of dollars each year. Early intervention can not only mitigate some of these effects, but intervene in the cycle of maltreatment to promote healthy family functioning.”


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