Social workers more likely to remove children from Sephardic or low income homes, study finds

“The economic situation and origin of the parent should not in themselves affect the decision of the social worker, but it was found that they do," says researches.

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November 5, 2014 20:30
2 minute read.
negev children

Children play on a rooftop.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Social workers are more likely to remove children from Sephardi and low income families, according to a recent study by the University of Haifa.

According to the findings of the study, conducted by Prof. Guy Enosh of the university’s School of Social Work, given the same circumstances, social workers are more likely to recommend removing a child from a low-income family or a child of a family of Sephardi origin from his home than a child from a well-established family or those of an Ashkenazi background.

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“The economic situation and origin of the parent should not in themselves affect the decision of the social worker, but it was found that they do in a clear and significant manner,” Enosh said.

To study the factors involved in the decision-making process, Enosh examined a number of real cases of children at risk that were presented for consideration before welfare departments.

With the help of six welfare professionals, there was a consensus on 12 cases whereby there was complete agreement on the level of risk to the child – four cases each in which the child was in a high risk, moderate risk and low-risk situation.

Furthermore, each case was categorized according to four distinct characteristics: well established families of Ashkenazi background; well established families of Sephardi background; poor families of Ashkenazi background; and poor families of Sephardi background.

The cases were distributed among 105 social workers so that each participant in the research study received a total of eight cases to review and issue a recommendation on whether or not to remove the child from his or her home.

According to the results, social workers recommended removing a child from his home in 56 percent of cases that were deemed high risk; 12% of cases that were deemed medium risk; and none recommended removing the child from the low-risk situations.

In the high-risk cases, the recommendation to remove a child from a family of low-economic status was six-times greater than the identical cases where the families were of a middle class or higher standing.

In these cases, however, a family’s origins did not play a deciding factor.

In moderate-risk cases, social workers recommended removing a child from a low-economic status family 2.5 times more often than if the child was from a well-established family. Similarly, the social workers were twice as likely to recommended removing the child from families of Sephardi origin as opposed to those of Ashkenazi origin.

“Social workers perceive poverty as a risk factor, but for this you can still find a logical explanation even if it is correct or incorrect,” Enosh said.

“The serious issue is found in cases of bias based on ethnicity, for which there is no justification. Emphasis should be given during their professional training on the sensitivity to economic and ethnic minorities and understanding that they have biased opinions toward these sectors.”


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