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United States. Children's Bureau.
Chibnall, Susan.;Dutch, Nicole M.;Jones-Harden, Brenda.;Brown, Annie.;Gourdine, Ruby.
This study was undertaken for two purposes—to gain insight into the issue of over-representation from the child welfare community, and to examine the programs and practices child welfare agencies are implementing to serve children and families of color. Findings indicate that the child welfare community is not only aware of over-representation of minority children in the system but is very concerned about it. There were a number of reasons given to explain over-representation. The most commonly reported reasons, however, were related to factors in the larger society including disparities in income, opportunities, resources and services between African-American and Caucasian groups, that result in more poverty, isolation, and risk factors for problem behavior, including substance use and child abuse, in African-American communities.
Findings also provide evidence that the child welfare community, at least in the nine agencies represented here, is actively engaged in efforts to respond to over-representation. Participants talked about strategies they felt would be useful in reducing over-representation. These include more preventive and support services targeted at reducing the number of families that come into contact with the system, and more ethnic-focused and community-based services to provide culturally appropriate interventions to families once they have entered the system. In addition, it is clear that more African-American foster and adoptive homes, including kinship placements, for children who are unable to return home, are critical to reducing over-representation. Finally, participants emphasized the importance of maintaining a culturally diverse staff and having opportunities for ongoing training around culturally relevant issues.
Participants also showcased programs, practices, and strategies that agencies are currently implementing in response to over-representation. Agencies are implementing a variety of strategies from system reform efforts in Illinois to prevention efforts in Minnesota to numerous family and community support programs across all nine sites. These efforts demonstrate a clear commitment to reducing over-representation and improving service delivery to minority clients.
Most important, this study points to the work that still needs to be completed in the area of over-representation. While the findings presented here provide insight into the child welfare community's perception of disproportionality, the factors that contribute to it, and the strategies that might reduce it, it is still unclear why over-representation exists and, therefore, what can be done to reduce or eliminate it. What is clear is that the over-representation of minority children in the child welfare system is a complex, multifaceted issue that cannot be solved through child welfare intervention alone. Because it involves such difficult and long-standing social problems as racial and class bias, it is imperative that future research and policies look beyond the child welfare system for answers. At the same time, it is incumbent upon the child welfare system to continue to make efforts to more clearly understand and address this important issue.
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