Social Work

Date of this version


Document Type



Somali, Oromo, refugee, child protection, out-of-home placement, child maltreatment



Background: Little is known about the experiences or proportion of refugees involved with child protective services (CPS) in the United States, because they are not an identifiable group in CPS data systems. This study utilized an innovative data matching project to identify refugees in CPS data systems and explored the experiences of Somali and Oromo youth in Minnesota's child protection system. Methods: A sample of 629 Somali and 62 Oromo youth who were involved with CPS between 2000 and 2013 were identified by linking datasets from the Minnesota Departments of Education and Human Services. Descriptive statistics, chi-square analysis, and t-tests were used to explore the proportion and characteristics of children involved with CPS, placement experiences, and child protection professionals' documentation of families' strengths and needs. Results: Somali and Oromo youth were involved with CPS at low rates (3.7%). Residential treatment facilities were the most common out-of-home (OHP) placement settings for Somali youth (41%), and almost a third of placements for Oromo youth were in a correctional facility (31.6%). Strengths identified for both groups included low alcohol and other drug use and few health issues. Needs included social support, mental health/coping support, and parenting skills. Conclusions: OHP settings for Somali and Oromo youth were highly restrictive. More research is needed to determine what is driving the high utilization of restrictive placements for Somali and Oromo youth, how accurately the Structured Decision Making tool assesses strengths and needs for families with refugee backgrounds, and how CPS professionals' assessments of strengths and needs compare to the refugee families' perceptions of their own strengths and needs.



Published in

Children and Youth Services Review

Citation/Other Information

Horn, T. L., Piescher, K., Shannon, P. J., Hong, S., & Benton, A. (2017). Experiences of Somali and Oromo youth in the child protection system. Children and Youth Services Review, 79, 10-19.