Out of sight, out of mind: Ethnic inequalities in child protection and out-of-home care intervention rates

Paul Bywaters, Josephine Kwhali, Geraldine Brady, Tim Sparks, Elizabeth Bos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the interlocking roles of ethnicity and deprivation in producing inequities in the proportion of children who are subject to state child protection interventions. In contrast to the USA, ethnic inequities have had little attention in research or policy in the UK and across Europe, and administrative data are limited and methodologically weak. A study of over 10 per cent of all children on child protection plans or who were looked after in out-of-home care in England in March 2012 is reported. Children from ethnic minority categories were much more likely than ‘White’ children to be living in disadvantaged areas and this has to be taken into account when examining intervention rates. Controlling for deprivation and examining small subgroups of the broad ethnic categories radically alters the simple understanding that ‘Black’ children are overrepresented compared to White amongst children in out-of-home care, while ‘Asian’ children are under-represented. While this study could not explain these patterns, it reinforces the importance of both socio-economic circumstances and ethnicity for understanding inequities in intervention rates. The evidence underlines the powerful moral and economic case for action to reduce inequities in powerful state interventions in family life, not only in England, but internationally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1884-1902
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number7
Early online date8 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


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