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Presentation to Children’s Administration CW Supervisors March 19, 2009 Lyman Legters and George Gonzalez Casey Family Programs. Disproportionality in the Child Welfare System. Opening Comments Definitions/National Data/History of Disproportionality in Child Welfare

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Presentation Transcript

Opening Comments

  • Definitions/National Data/History of Disproportionality in Child Welfare
    • Dr. Carol Spigner video – 55 minutes
  • King County/Washington State
  • Direct Service Response
    • Knowing Who You Are video
  • Open Dialogue/Sharing


Over-or-under-representation of children of color under age 18 in foster care compared to their representation in the general population (Race Matters Consortium).


Disparate or inequitable treatment, services and outcomes for children of color as compared to those provided and experienced by similarly situated Caucasian children (Race Matters Consortium).


Racial Equity

A social outcome measure that occurs when the distribution of society’s resources, opportunities, and burdens are not predictable by race (Aspen Roundtable).

Structural Racism

The many factors that work to produce and maintain racial hierarchies and inequities in America today which includes:

National history, values and culture;

Public policies, institutional practices and cultural stereotypes (Aspen Roundtable).

theories about causes

Parent/Family Risk Factors:

Poverty, Jobless, Drugs, Mental Illness

Community Risk Factors:

Poverty, Homelessness, Crime, Violence

Organizational/Structural Factors:

Bias, Practices, Policies, Systemic Racism

Theories About Causes
levels of racism





Levels of Racism
what the king county data shows

Children of color constitute one-third of the King County child population, but make up more than one half of all children currently in foster care in King County.

African American and Native American children are over-represented at nearly every decision point in the child welfare system, and the disparities increase the deeper you go in the system.

Multi-racial children and children of “other” races are over-represented at a few decision points in the system

What the King County Data Shows

What the King County Data Shows

  • Compared to Caucasian children, African American and Native American children:
    • Are disproportionately represented in child welfare referrals accepted for investigation
    • Are more likely to be removed from their homes and placed in foster care
    • Make up a disproportionate percentage of children in care longer than 2 years and longer than four years
    • Wait longer to be adopted.

Findings from National Research

  • Children of color more likely to be reported to CPS than white children even when equally severe injuries.1
  • Worker’s perception that the family is non-compliant may result in higher assessment of risk, despite otherwise similar facts.2


1 Katz, M., R. Hampton, et al. (1986). Returning children home:clinical decision making in cases of child abuse and neglect. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 56 (2):2530262

2 English, D.M., Brummel, S., and Orme, M. (1995). A preliminary examination of similarities and differences in the assessment of risk for different ethnic groups. Olympia, Washington, Office of Children’s Administration Research, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services: 18.


Findings from National Research

  • Racial disparity in outcomes may relate to families of color receiving fewer services.1
  • Racial or ethnic status of social worker does not, in and of itself, make a difference in outcomes.2


1 Hill, R. (2001). Disproportionality of Minorities in Child Welfare: Synthesis of Research Findings. Washington, D.C., Westat: 30.

2 Barth, R. P., M. Courtney, et al. (1994). Timing is everything: an analysis of the time to adoption and legalization. Social Work Research 18(3).


Findings from National Research

  • Children of color are more likely to be placed with kin.1
  • Kinship care providers receive fewer services than non-related foster parents do.2
  • Caucasian foster parents are offered significantly more services than other ethnic or racial groups.3


1Berrick, J. D., R. P. Barth, et al. (1994). "A comparison of kinship foster homes and foster family homes: implications for kinship foster care as family preservation." Children and Youth Services Review 16(1/2): 33-63.

2 Ibid

3 Stenho, S. (1982). Differential treatment of minority children in service systems. Social Work 27, 39-45.

thomas morton child welfare institute of america s 1999 study of national child welfare data

There is no higher incidence of abuse or neglect in any racial or ethnic group.

We must assume that any higher rate of referral must be the result of something else….

Thomas Morton Child Welfare Institute of America’s 1999 Study of National Child Welfare Data

Children of Color are not in the System because of Higher Rates of Abuse or Neglect by their Families

topics for ongoing work

Applying Undoing Racism training to practice

Learning and understanding the communities where families reside

Providing prevention services in communities

Topics for Ongoing Work

Casey Family Programs

topics for ongoing work1

Providing services in language of the population

  • Examination of issues of under representation as well as overrepresentation
    • Within group differences
  • Matching Reunification/preservation services to family needs
    • Reasons for entry into care
      • Intersections with substance abuse
Topics for Ongoing Work
topics for ongoing work2

Impact of disparities in other areas: education, health care, mental health, and criminal justice

  • Gender,race/ethnicity, class issues in service provision
    • Practices and policies in identifying fathers and paternal relatives
Topics for Ongoing Work
topics for ongoing work3

Recruiting families of color as foster and adoptive homes

  • Maintaining family connections
    • Sibling placement issues
  • Service delivery and funding for kinship providers
Topics for Ongoing Work
topics for ongoing work4

Analyzing outcome data by race and using data to inform practice

  • Analyze impact of proposed policies and practices on specific populations and on disproportionality
    • Impact of privatization on disproportionality… contracting
Topics for Ongoing Work
knowing who you are1

What are your impressions of the concepts presented regarding racial and ethnic identity?

What are the top points highlighted that you want to address when you get back to work?

How can you further integrate racial and ethnic identity work with youth I your organization?

Knowing Who You Are
open discussion

Tell us, and everyone else in the room, what you think.

What questions are there?

Some resources to share

Open Discussion
our collective work continues

“We can no longer afford to step softly around this problem; we must be willing to wake up and awaken others to confront institutional and individual issues that perpetuate disproportionality.”

BSC Framework for Change, p. 2

Our Collective Work Continues…

Casey Family Programs

our collective work continues1

“. . . there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers.”

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, p. 5

Our Collective Work Continues…

Casey Family Programs


Understanding the problem

The poverty question


Constituent engagement

Tribal involvement and implementing ICWA