Disproportionality & Child Welfare

There are two commonly used methods for measuring racial inequality, both of which utilize the racial disparity index (RDI) formula (the two variations are defined by using different base population in the denominator).

The first is the “absolute RDI,” in which a racial group’s representation at a specific decision point is divided by that group’s representation in the general child population. The same denominator is used when calculating absolute RDIs at each decision point. The absolute RDI provides information about a racial group’s over or underrepresentation at each decision point, but does not take into account the impact of disproportionality at earlier child welfare decision points on later decision points. In order to isolate the impact of disproportionality at each decision point, the second measure, known as the “relative RDI,” can be calculated; this measure divides a racial group’s representation at child welfare decision point by that group’s representation at a prior child welfare decision point. The relative RDI allows us to examine how disproportionate representation may increase or decrease at subsequent decision points, which is not possible with the absolute RDI. A relative RDI value close to one indicates that there is no change in a group’s representation compared to the previous stage, a value greater than one indicates increasing representation, and a value less than one indicates decreasing representation.

Child Protection often follows a continuum that can be defined by the decisions of CPS staff once an allegation has been made. This analysis will focus on five different decision points in relation to spatial-temporal demography throughout the state of Michigan.

Key decision points

  • Allegation reporting
  • Screening decision
  • Investigation finding
  • Removal
  • Placement

Photo by Guduru Ajay bhargav