Critical Connections: An Intersectional Frame on Disability and Child Protection

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760). This special issue belongs to the section "Childhood and Youth Studies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 October 2024 | Viewed by 284

Special Issue Editors

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Guest Editor
School of Social Work, Salem State University, Salem, MA 01970, USA
Interests: addiction treatment; child welfare services research; disability community

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Guest Editor
School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin, D02 PN40 Dublin, Ireland
Interests: disability; child protection and welfare; social work and social care

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Guest Editor
School of Social Work, Salem State University, Salem, MA 01970, USA
Interests: child welfare; diversity, equity, and social justice; workforce development; disability studies; social work education

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Guest Editor
School of Social Work and Arts, Charles Sturt University, Canberra 2600, Australia
Interests: intersectionality; gender equity; evidence-informed practice; child welfare; organisational learning and development; social justice and social policy; disability; service delivery

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

It is imperative to use an intersectional lens (Collins & Bilge, 2016) when considering the disability community’s experience in the child protection[1] system. Researchers in this realm have examined the potential influences of a variety of social identities on the trajectories and outcomes of children and families involved in this system, including race, ethnicity, gender, and disability (e.g., Pelton, 2015; Wilson & Kastanis, 2015). The concept of intersectionality considers the interrelatedness of our multiple social identities (Thomas et al., 2023). Further, this idea calls on us to consider how combinations of social identities affect self-perception and how we are viewed and treated by other individuals, groups, institutions, and larger social structures (Slayter, 2016).

It is our contention that the study of intersectionality, as it relates to the disability community in child protection systems, remains critical due to the persistent scarcity of scholarship on the subject matter in a broad sense, and specifically in the child protection and welfare context (Flynn, 2021). Intersectionality provides a framework for considering the person as a whole, including their identities and complexities. No longer can a siloed approach be taken to policy and practice, whereby the researcher examines social identities singularly which at times is counterintuitive to the wellbeing of the individual and broader disability communities. The use of an intersectional lens may expose potential inequities in child welfare processes and outcomes that are not produced or maintained by a single factor (such as ableism or racism). Indeed, it is important to consider that inequities may exist due to the complex interactions between multiple manifestations of privilege and oppression or advantage and disadvantage at interpersonal and institutional levels (Lawrence & Keleher, 2004).                                    

Most of the applications of intersectionality in the child welfare literature have focused on practice and theory (e.g., Ortega & Faller, 2011; Cramer and Plummer, 2009). More recently published articles in this area include those employing intersectionality in statistical (e.g., Nadan et al., 2015) and policy (e.g., Williams-Butler et al., 2020) analyses. This growing body of literature addresses the ways in which “…intersectionality is important for understanding connections, client characteristics and behaviour, for service agencies for developing more holistic service provision, and for organisations in understanding and advancing equity” (Thomas et al., 2021, p. 3). We aim to build on this momentum when running this Special Issue.

Call for Papers

We are seeking papers from social work practitioners, faculty, students, and staff who are interested in turning a “intersectional lens” onto the experiences of disability communities in child welfare/child protection/family policing settings. We are especially interested in papers by disabled[2] authors and others with in-depth lived experience related to disability. Papers must demonstrate a thorough and rigorous attention to the concept of intersectionality via their theoretical framework, study design, or interpretation of findings (if empirical). Papers may be empirical, conceptual, or written in a call-to-action format. To encourage wide participation in this Special Issue, we welcome brief practice or commentary (10 pages) or full-length (20–25 page) scholarly papers. Topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Intersectional, abolitionist perspectives in child and family services, including the perspective of child protection as “family policing”;
  • Intersections of gender, race, ethnicity, disability, and other identities in family reunification outcomes;
  • Effectiveness of a training on intersectional assessment for child protection workers;
  • Training front-line child protection workers to consider how their social identities and social locations impact case practice;
  • Intersectional and differential treatment of families in regional, rural, or remote settings;
  • Intersectional considerations in adoption out of foster care;
  • An intersectional analysis of diverse family structures (e.g., queer community, cultures with matrilineal traditions) and with attention to geographic location.

Submit a Brief Proposal

If you want to be considered for submission of a paper to the special issue, please submit an abstract (max 300 words), title and contact information to the issue co-editors, Drs. Flynn, Johnson, Slayter and Thomas at the link below by 8 January 2024 ( Authors will be notified of invitation to move forward with a full paper by 5 February 2024. Please note that full papers will be reviewed per the Social Sciences usual peer review process. See the schedule below for more  details.

Timeline for Submission and Publishing

Activity Date
Call for papers distributed 1 November 2023
Email abstract to editors via link 8 January 2024
Paper invitation 5 February 2024
Paper submission 1 May 2024
Reviewer feedback to authors—first round Rolling
Anticipated publish date 1 August 2024

[1] Some social workers refer to the child protection or child welfare systems as the family policing system. This is based on the work of scholar Dorothy Roberts (2022 & 2020), who uses the term ‘family policing system’ instead of ‘child welfare system’ or ‘child protection system’ because they believe that it most accurately and directly describes the system’s purpose and impact.

[2] In the disability community, there are a range of perspectives on whether and when to use person first  (“person with a disability”) and identity first (“disabled person”). Many disabled scholars and advocates prefer identity first language, so we use it here.


  1. Collins, P. H., and S. Bilge. "Intersectionality polity press." Malden, MA (2016).
  2. Cramer, Elizabeth P., and Sara-Beth Plummer. "People of color with disabilities: Intersectionality as a framework for analyzing intimate partner violence in social, historical, and political contexts." Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma 18, no. 2 (2009): 162-181.
  3. Flynn, Susan. "Social work intervention pathways within child protection: Responding to the needs of disabled children in Ireland." Practice 33, no. 1 (2021): 51-63. 
  4. Thomas, Cate, Susan Flynn, Elspeth Slayter, and Lisa Johnson. "Disability, intersectionality, child welfare and child protection: Research representations." Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research 25, no. 1 (2023). 
  5. Lawrence, K. and Kelleher, T. (2004). Structural Racism. Retrieved from:
  6. Nadan, Yochay, James C. Spilsbury, and Jill E. Korbin. "Culture and context in understanding child maltreatment: Contributions of intersectionality and neighborhood-based research." Child abuse & neglect 41 (2015): 40-48. 
  7. Ortega, Robert M., and Kathleen Coulborn Faller. "Training child welfare workers from an intersectional cultural humility perspective." Child welfare 90, no. 5 (2011): 27-49. 
  8. Pelton, Leroy H. "The continuing role of material factors in child maltreatment and placement." Child Abuse & Neglect 41 (2015): 30-39. 
  9.  Roberts, Dorothy. Torn apart: how the child welfare system destroys black families--and how abolition can build a safer world. Basic Books, 2022.
  10. Roberts, Dorothy. "Abolishing policing also means abolishing family regulation." The Imprint 16 (2020).
  11. Slayter, Elspeth. "Youth with disabilities in the United States child welfare system." Children and Youth Services Review 64 (2016): 155-165. 
  12. Williams-Butler, Abigail, Kate E. Golden, Alicia Mendez, and Breana Stevens. "Intersectionality and Child Welfare Policy." Child Welfare 98, no. 4 (2020): 75-96. 
  13. Wilson, Bianca DM, and Angeliki A. Kastanis. "Sexual and Gender Minority Disproportionality and Disparities in Child Welfare: A Population-Based Study". Children and Youth Services Review 58(2015): 11–17.

Prof. Dr. Elspeth Slayter
Dr. Susan Flynn
Dr. Lisa Johnson
Dr. Cate Thomas
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • disability communities
  • child welfare
  • child protection
  • family policing settings

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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