Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander children in foster care: A descriptive study of an overlooked child welfare population

Joyce Y. Lee, Tara Ogilvie, Susan H. Yoon, Jaclyn Kirsch, Eun Koh, Michael S. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To date, little to nothing is known about Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) children in foster care although they are overrepresented in some of the child welfare systems in the United States and experience challenges stemming from structural colonialism and displacement. To highlight this often-overlooked population in child welfare research, the current study applied an indigenous model to understand who the NHPI children are in foster care by descriptively examining their sociodemographic, family of origin, geographic characteristics, as well as their placement status with relatives or foster parents who identify as NHPI. Data came from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System with a focus on the 2018 entry cohort (N = 763). One-way analysis of variance and chi-square analysis were used. Results showed that NHPI children in foster care were school-aged, most commonly entered foster care due to neglect, and were most likely to be placed with relatives. Non-relative foster parents were more likely than relative foster parents to care for NHPI children with disabilities, sexual abuse histories, and parental incarceration. Within non-relative foster families, those where at least one foster parent identified as NHPI were more likely to care for NHPI children with behavior problems or parental illness, compared to non-relative foster families where no foster parent identified as NHPI. NHPI children in relative foster families experienced the least placement disruptions, but relative foster families tended to be more socioeconomically disadvantaged and a smaller proportion of them received monthly foster care payments than non-relative foster families. The results suggest that child welfare practitioners and policymakers should prioritize financially supporting relatives as part of ensuring NHPI children's wellbeing and preserving their connections to family and culture.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106618
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Culture
  • Foster children
  • Kinship care
  • Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander
  • Race


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