Creating Racial Equity in Child Welfare: What Do We Know? Judith Meltzer, CSSP Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative Fall Convening November 16, 2010
Developing a Common LanguageDefining Racial Disproportionality and Disparities 1 The terms disproportionality and/or disparity are terms used to define differences in representation in the child welfare system by race. • Racial Disproportionality– is the comparison of the representation of a group experiencing one event to the same group in another event: for example, the percent of African American children in the general population compared to their percentage in foster care (14% vs. 31% in 2009). • Racial Disparities– are the relative comparisons made across racial and ethnic groups and can demonstrate differences in outcomes, treatment, resources and/or services across racial/ethnic lines. • Important– The presence of either disproportionality or disparities, in and of themselves is not conclusive that something positive or discriminatory or biased has occurred, but should prompt further analyses to determine the “story behind the data”.
Representation of Children in Foster Care by Race in the Last 12 Years (-14%) (-47%) (+2%) (+5%) Data Source: Adoption and Foster Care Reporting and Analysis System, Reports 10-17 (1998-2009). Children’s Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (USDHHS, ACF)
Representation of Youth Population vs. Representation of Foster Care Population by race/ethnicity in 2008 Percentage Reduction of Foster Care Population by Race 1998 - 2009 Data Source: Adoption and Foster Care Reporting and Analysis System, Reports 10-17 (1998-2009). Children’s Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (USDHHS, ACF);Child population by race (Percent) – 2008 Data Provided by: National KIDS COUNT Program http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/acrossstates/Rankings.aspx?ind=103 Data Source: Adoption and Foster Care Reporting and Analysis System, Reports 10-17 (1999-2009). Children’s Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (USDHHS, ACF)
Representation of Children in Foster Care by Race in the Last 12 Years 1 The number of all children in this country who entered care across races has decreased. The number of African American children HAS DECREASED MORE THAN ANY OTHER GROUP. Is this enough? NO. Why?
What Does Current Research Tell Us About Child Welfare Representation Child Welfare System Representation Is a measure of 1) Who comes to the attention of the child welfare system (maltreatment incidence and prevalence), and 2) What happens once a child enters the foster care system (how the system responds to the needs of the child and family)
What Does Current Research Tell Us About Incidence and Prevalence of Abuse and Neglect • Few studies exist in the U.S. that have attempted to provide estimates of national incidence. • The three best studies [the Gallup 1995 Household Survey, the Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire (2005), and the National Incidence Studies (2006)] provide different and still inconclusive findings.
What Does Current Research Tell Us About • The Gallup and JVS studies have conflicting results. • The National Incidence Study-4 (NIS-4) found that, when comparing the rates of maltreatment for different races, and only looking at race, African American children were maltreated at higher rates than white and Latino children. • However, in supplementary analysis that looked at race, and other risk factors and types of abuse, the NIS-4 does not show systematic race differences in maltreatment rates. • The evidence from these three studies is mixed, suggesting more research needs to take place to truly understand maltreatment rates.
Representation of Children in Foster Care by Race in the Last 12 Years All Children Black Non-Hispanic Children Data Source: Adoption and Foster Care Reporting and Analysis System, Reports 10-17 (1999-2009). Children’s Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (USDHHS, ACF)
Representation of Children in Foster Care by Race in the U.S. in 2009 • What We’ve Learned • It is important to understand the representation in foster care for children and families. • While representation is as shown above at the national level, patterns at the state and local level can differ. It is important to collect and analyze data locally to make the most accurate assessment of how children are represented in the foster care system by race. • Factors that influence child welfare system involvement include: • Disproportionate and disparate need of children and families of color; • Racial bias and discrimination in the child welfare system and other ecologies; • Child welfare system policies, processes and resources (structural racism); and • Geographic context.
What Does the Research Say About Decision Point Representation By Race? • By looking at decision points you can better see where within the system the disproportional representation is created. • Investigations – African Americans were much more likely to be investigated compared to white children who had a report for maltreatment. The rate at which reports are accepted for investigation for children of different races and ethnicities can vary greatly. • Substantiated/Indicated Reports– Race and ethnicity are not strongly correlated to rates of maltreatment substantiation . Investigations for African American and Hispanic children are substantiated at similar rates to those for white children while the rates of substantiation for American Indian children have higher rates for particular maltreatment types.
What Does the Research Say About Decision Point Representation By Race? • In Home Services– African American and Hispanic children are less likely than white children to receive in-home family services. The decision to serve children in their homes or remove them from their homes is a critical decision because it includes separating children from their family (Bowman et al., 2009) . • Foster Care Placement– African American and American Indian children are much more likely to be placed in foster care and into kinship care than white children (Bowman et al., 2009).
What Does the Research Say About Decision Point Representation By Race? • Exits from care – Children of color generally have longer lengths of stay, are slower to exit the system, and have differential permanency outcomesthan white children. When examining exits to permanency collectively, research indicates that African American and American Indian children are less likely to exit the foster care system through reunification, adoption, and legal guardianship than are white children (Tilbury & Thoburn, 2009). • Reunification –Many studies have noted the existence of racial disparities in reunification (probability and timeliness), particularly for African American children.
What Does the Research Say About Decision Point Representation By Race? • Adoption – Numerous studies show that race and ethnicity play significant roles in the likelihood that a child will be adopted (Snowden, Leon, & Sieracki, 2008). While recent research (Hill, 2006) shows comparable rates of exit through adoption for African Americans, research continues to show that race and ethnicity do play significant roles in the length of time to adoption. African American children continue to take longer to become adopted than white children (Barth, 1997; Wulczyn et al 2005; Hill 2006; and Fluke et al 2010). • Exits through Emancipation – Data are very limited regarding older youth of color who exit the system through independent living and are inconsistent regarding the role of race and ethnicity in the outcomes for these youth.
What Does the Research Say About Decision Point Representation By Race? • Service and Resource Availability– There is evidence of a broad pattern of inequitable service and resource availability for families of color who come into contact with the child welfare system. • Evidence points to disparities in Case Management; Family Support; Mental Health; Substance Use; and other services. These disparities exist in the context of insufficient resources for all children and families in many systems.
Research Questions That Remain Conclusion: There is much more that we need to know nationally and by state and locality • What is the actual incidence of maltreatment for children of different races and cultures, incorporating various income levels? • What are the factors underlying the disparate representation of African Americans and American Indians in investigations (accepted reports), placement into foster care, length of stay in foster care, and exits from foster care? • Why is there a broad pattern of inequitable service and resource availability for families of color who come into contact with the child welfare system……and what will it take to remedy that? • What does a racially equitable child welfare system look like? How do we ensure that outcomes are not different by race or ethnicity? What evidence exists for strategies to alter the picture?