Doctoral Student Fellowship

Reiko Kimiko Boyd, School of Social Welfare

Place matters: A county-level study of Black infant health and front-end child welfare disparity

Abstract

Many Black infants face particularly precarious circumstances at birth. Disparate health and child welfare outcomes have been persistently documented for this vulnerable population. This dissertation is a place-based study that explores the relationship between disparities in health and disparities in foster care entry for Black infants. It aims to build upon studies of individual level correlates of maltreatment risk, to examine how place matters for children’s health and wellbeing. This study will examine how county-level measures of birth indicators relate to county variation in infant maltreatment allegations, substantiated reports, and foster care placement. It will also use Geographic Information Systems as a tool to conduct a related spatial analysis of health disparities and child welfare disparities in select California counties. Findings from this study will be especially relevant to decision-makers in local child welfare and public health agencies who need to draw from empirically based recommendations as they decide where to focus scare system resources. This study can provide a basis for collaboration between county child welfare and public health agencies to develop targeted primary prevention strategies aimed at reducing disparate outcomes for the most vulnerable infants. Findings may also inform policy aimed at galvanizing efforts to advance interdisciplinary, place-based approaches to improving community conditions that influence health.