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Addressing Racial Disproportionality in Child Welfare
Series: Issue Briefs|
Child Welfare Information Gateway |
|Year Published: 2011|
Once maltreatment has been substantiated, White families are more likely to receive services that allow the children to remain in the home, while families of color are more likely to have their children placed in out-of-home care (Derezotes & Poertner, 2005). Differences can also be found in other types of services, including those for children and those for parents (Cahn & Harris, 2005).
A number of child welfare practices show promise for reducing this disparity by increasing availability of services, especially in-home services, for families of color.
- Family preservation and support services
- Differential response
- Informal kinship care
- Family group decision-making
- Referrals to culturally competent service providers
In 1993, Congress established the Family Preservation and Support Services program to encourage States to develop family preservation and family support services to keep children safely with their families. Such programs focus and build on family strengths while meeting needs identified by the family to provide practical help. These services typically offer in-home support or counseling and may include parent training, childcare, and concrete services. Family preservation service workers generally have smaller caseloads and are able to spend focused time helping the family to deal with the crisis and to build competence to address future challenges.
Differential response, also known as alternative response or dual-track response, refers to the use of a tailored response for families reported for child maltreatment. Different from the "one response fits all" approach, differential response is most often used when there is a determination of low risk or when the family might not otherwise qualify for services. Families may receive services without a substantiated finding of child maltreatment or, in cases of substantiation, when the child can remain safely in the home while the family receives services.
Differential response provides more options for family involvement in case planning and service provision. The flexibility of differential response means that it is one positive way for jurisdictions to address disproportionality, if they find that a disproportionate number of families of color are substantiated for child maltreatment.
In FY 2009, the Children's Bureau funded the National Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response in Child Protective Services (QIC-DR). The QIC-DR has conducted significant research in this area and is currently overseeing demonstration projects in three States that will identify the components that contribute to the success of differential response. The QIC-DR also provides training and technical assistance on this topic to States and counties looking to implement or improve differential response programs.
|Promising Project—Service Provision|
|Location||Franklin County, OH (Franklin was 1 of 10 Ohio counties that implemented an alternative response model)|
|Researcher||The Supreme Court of Ohio and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and American Humane Association|
|Goal||To provide families, including African-American families, the option of a noninvestigative, family-friendly assessment and a more family-driven approach to service delivery and reduce the number of children who enter foster care.|
|Method||The county agency selected nine zip codes that were home to African-American populations and had high numbers of referrals and child removals. Targeting these neighborhoods, the agency implemented an alternative response model, in which services were front-loaded so that families could access services quickly and before children were at risk. The agency also partnered with five community-based settlement houses to increase families' access to services in their neighborhoods.|
|Results||Early results showed that nearly half of all referrals received an alternative response, and 93 percent of all alternative response cases closed within 45 days. This decrease in case openings was accompanied by a decrease in all child placements and, specifically, a reduction in the number of African-American children in State custody, both in numbers and in proportion to other ethnic groups. In fact, the percentage of children in State care who were African-American dropped to a 15-year low of 50 percent after alternative response implementation. The final evaluation report noted that the major positive effects of differential response on new reports of child maltreatment occurred among African-American families.|
|For More Information||
Informal kinship care refers to cases in which parents voluntarily place their children with kin without any formal involvement from a child welfare agency. This may happen in response to suspected or unsubstantiated reports of abuse or neglect. Because there is no formal involvement from the child welfare system, the kin are not obligated to be licensed or approved; however, they are also not eligible for most subsidies or supports. Community supports for these families might enable them to care for their children better and keep them from entering the child welfare system.
In the Family Group Decision-Making (FGDM) approach, the child welfare agency provides support and information to help the extended family come together and develop a plan for the safety and well-being of the child.8 This approach is based on the belief that the family has strengths that can be garnered for the child's benefit. Generally, a broad definition of "family" is used and may include godparents, neighbors, community or Tribal members, and anyone else invested in the welfare of the child and family. In fact, one of the early benefits of FGDM may be the identification and location of family members who may not have been involved with the child or may not have even known about the child before being contacted to participate in FGDM.
The worker, or an FGDM facilitator, is responsible for locating and contacting the family, providing information such as legal requirements, and making arrangements for family conferences. The worker or facilitator may also help implement the family's plan and conduct follow-up conferences or activities. One positive result of FGDM may be the placement of the child with kin while the child's parents receive training or resources from the formal system and from their natural and culturally based network to prepare them to reunify their family.
The use of FGDM reflects the traditional values of kinship and community seen, for example, in African cultures, as well as Native American Tribal culture (Mills & Usher, 2004). It may also help promote a community-based approach to addressing disproportionality (Roberts, 2007). FGDM can also help the community at large view child welfare workers and agencies in a more positive light.
Clients who receive services either in-home or in the community may be more receptive to services offered by culturally competent providers. Child welfare agencies can work with community agencies to identify and develop a culturally diverse list of therapists, counselors, and other service providers. Within agencies, management can provide training and direction to child welfare workers, ensuring that they refer clients to culturally competent providers within the community. The providers should have a full understanding of the client's cultural background, especially the ways in which culture affects beliefs about health, parenting, and behavior, and be able to incorporate the client's culture into the services. The provider also should be able to converse in the same language as the client.
|Promising Project—Service Provision|
|Project||Denver Indian Family Resource Center (DIFRC)|
|Researcher & Goal||In 2000, DIFRC received a grant through the Rocky Mountain Quality Improvement Center, funded by the Children's Bureau, to coordinate a project serving American Indian children and families experiencing both substance abuse and child maltreatment.|
|Method||DIFRC worked directly with families that had contact with the child welfare system by providing intensive case management, coordinating Team Decision Meetings, and offering support groups to help parents prepare to enter substance abuse treatment. DIFRC also supported system change through collaboration with county departments of human services (DHSs).|
|Results||The project ran from January 2003 through March 2006, and 49 families participated during that time. There was no recurrence of substantiated maltreatment during program enrollment. The goal of keeping children from being placed outside their family and culture was achieved. The number of children placed in foster care decreased from 39 to 19 percent, and placement with relatives increased from 18 to 41 percent. This partnership with DIFRC helped the DHSs provide culturally appropriate services, identify extended family and community supports for children, and further recognize the relationship between substance abuse and child maltreatment. DIFRC also supported adherence to Indian Child Welfare Act standards, provided cultural consultations on cases, and participated in team decision-making meetings coordinated by the Denver DHS.|
|For More Information||
|Promising Project—Service Provision|
|Project||Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) Program|
|Researcher||North Carolina Division of Social Services|
|Goal||To reduce the number of maltreated children who are removed from their homes by providing services to families that stabilize crises in the home, keep the child and family safe, develop skills and resources to resolve future crises, and improve family functioning.|
|Method||Families receive culturally competent, strengths-based, time-limited services, at least half of which are provided in the family's home or community. They have round-the-clock access to family preservation workers who have caseloads of no more than four families.|
|Results||Between July 1994 and December 2003, IFPS programs in approximately 70 North Carolina counties provided services to 2,056 high-risk families, in which children were at imminent risk of being removed from the home. A comparison group of 28,004 high-risk families did not receive IFPS. IFPS had positive results in a number of domains, including mitigating racial disparities in the child welfare system. For example, non-White children who received IFPS were less likely to be placed outside the home than White children who received IFPS. Also, throughout the first year after services were received, the placement rate for non-White children in IFPS was 7 to 12 percent lower than non-White children receiving traditional services.|
|For More Information||Kirk, R. S., & Griffith, D. P. (2008). Impact of Intensive Family Preservation Services on disproportionality. Child Welfare, 87(5), 87-105.|
8For more information on Family Group Decision-Making, see American Humane's website for the National Center on Family Group Decision-Making at www.americanhumane.org/children/programs/family-group-decision-making/national-center. Back
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