Latino immigrant child welfare involvement & street-level bureaucracy: caseworkers' experiences within an organizational context
Rosales, Anna Maria
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Latino immigrants are the fastest growing foreign group and appear to be suffering from disproportionate risks of involvement in the child welfare system. Yet, there is limited knowledge in regards to this population when involved in the child welfare system and the day-to-day complexity of issues, stressors, and barriers they face. This qualitative study aims to understand the day-to-day reality of being a Latino immigrant in this system as well as the organizations that work with this population. Street-level bureaucracy theory is used to explore how private non-profit child welfare agencies work to assist their Latino immigrant clients on a day-to-day basis. It also examines the perceptions and experiences of non-profit child welfare staff members in regards to accountability and discretion toward both the organization and their Latino immigrant clients. Qualitative methodology was used to gain in-depth knowledge of how these agencies are working with this population. Three private non-profit child welfare agencies located in Los Angeles County were selected. Each agency has a foster care and adoptions component as well as various other programs such as Project Fatherhood, Family Preservation, and Unaccompanied Child program. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a total of 19 staff members. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis. Findings from this study found that the complex issues that exist with this population in the child welfare system are not discussed at a detailed or formal level. Also, there are gaps between policies and practices, in that the universal policies in place are not meeting all the needs of these families and creating barriers in servicing these families. At the organizational level, it was found that these agencies have more time and availability for their immigrant clients due to a lower caseload and agency flexibility. They were able to be more accountable to their clients and used their discretion to spend more time with these clients, advocate more for them, provide more quality work, and have more creativity in filling the gaps these families are experiencing in regards to access to services and service use.