Impact Feature Issue on Children with Disabilities in the Child Welfare System

A Need for Shared Expertise

Services for children with disabilities and their families include special education, health care, family support (including respite care), advocacy, vocational training, and independent living as children mature. Historically, these services have functioned separately from the child protective system, with little recognition by either about the vulnerability of children with disabilities for maltreatment. Key gaps include:

  • Lack of screening for disabilities at time of intake into the child protective system;
  • Lack of awareness of and training on recognizing and reporting maltreatment among disabilities services, special education services, and advocacy organizations;
  • Lack of awareness and training about disabilities among maltreatment investigation, assessment, and treatment services;
  • Differing eligibility requirements and age cut-offs for disabilities services and the child protective system;
  • Prevention services (parenting support groups, respite, child abuse hotlines) that do not address the needs and concerns of families of children with disabilities;
  • Few crisis and long-term placement options for children with disabilities.

People with expertise in disabilities and cultural competency need to be included in identification, investigation, assessment and treatment of maltreatment through appointments to review committees, staff positions with assessment and treatment centers, and consulting on individual cases and on prevention programs. Programs serving children with disabilities and their families must become aware of the relationship between disabilities and maltreatment; address maltreatment of children with disabilities through prevention, intervention and advocacy; and develop cross-cultural competence.

Adapted with permission fromEvery Child Special – Every Child Safe: Protecting Children with Disabilities From Maltreatment – A Call to Action(2000). By G.L. Krahn, et al., Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, pages 33-34, 36. Retrieved 1/3/06 from www.ohsu.edu/oidd/pdfs/OAKSProjectbw.pdf.