First Advisor

Keva M. Miller

Term of Graduation

Spring 2020

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work




Child welfare, Child abuse, Race, Poverty



Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 226 pages)


The relationship between poverty and child maltreatment has long been addressed in the literature. Disproportionally, children, especially those of color, are more likely to live in poverty than adults. It has been established that the risk of child maltreatment increases the longer impoverishment is experienced. Thus, the likelihood that racial disproportionality may have negative impact upon the child welfare system is potentially increased. Much attention has been given to the overrepresentation of certain children of color within the child welfare system when cared to their representation within the general population. This study explores the intersection of poverty and race upon child maltreatment through the lens of economically disadvantaged families of various racial backgrounds. Implementing a phenomenological approach, focus groups were conducted with economically disadvantaged families sharing their first-hand experiences of parenting with limited means and their views on the intersection of poverty, race, and child maltreatment. The findings point to three primary areas: (1) The strain of managing life with inadequate financial means results in significant strain on poor families; (2) In spite of the ongoing challenges, poor parents exert great efforts to care for their children; and (3) Adding to their challenges, poor families face additional stressors when having to engage with either the public welfare or child welfare systems. Results further indicate six underlying issues adding to the stressors of living in poverty: (1) Challenges of single parenting; (2) Impact of race and racism on poor families of color; (3) Impact of limited funding and other resources within the community; (4) Living with mental health and disabilities; (5) A constant fear of child welfare intervention; and (6) Biased and inconsistent practices within the public welfare and child welfare systems. Finally findings suggest a negative impact to racial disproportionality when child welfare fails to properly understand how to best serve poor families of color.


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