Environmental Singularity as Conduit of Foster Care Disparities: White Canadian/U.S. Social Workers Placing Children of Color

Article excerpt


The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) defines child welfare in the provision of social services to children in need. The needs of such children may extend from family members who cannot or will not adequately meet their childrearing obligation. Consequently children resigned to the custody of family members become eligible for placement into foster care. The objective of placing these children into foster care is to provide adequately for their wellbeing and to insure a healthy and normal maturation throughout their various developmental stages (NASW, 2005; CSWE, 1959).

An impediment to the comprehensive well-being of children placed in foster care is the welfare system. The social welfare system in both Canada and the United States at federal, state, and local levels has operated by the dictates of Eurocentric cultural tradition (Loiacono, 2010). Commensurate with such traditions children of color in need have been assigned to foster care not irrelevant to Eurocentric standards of need. For example: in the U.S. in 1935 Democrats founded the Social Security Act as a means to assist needy members of society who were unable to sustain themselves without government assistance (Grabham & Smith, 2010). The U.S. Social Security Act offers a dramatic illustration by which assistance disparities between White Canadian/U.S. children and Canadian/U.S. children of color can be exposed and investigated. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and the Maternal and Child Health program benefitted some exclusively with little public opposition because welfare programs conformed to cultural tradition. The prestige and funding brought by the U.S. federal government in supporting such programs extends from culturally motivated public and political support. Canada by proxy and the U.S. as Western, Eurocentric nations, while nationally distinct are culturally similar i.e.,: Eurocentric. By their own policies and actions both governments then influenced the institution of social welfare vis-a-vis foster care to the extent that programs and services are now all but irrelevant to children of color (Jagannathan, Camasso & Sambamoorthi, 2010). So extensive is this influence that today child welfare agencies have ignored children of color in need of more comprehensive foster care. No more dramatic illustration of this phenomenon exists than in the failed placement of children of color into foster care by uninformed White Social Workers. Under the guise of cultural tradition and questionable assumptions brought by a Eurocentric knowledge base children of color are victimized by the foster care system unnecessarily. Evidence of prudent research which challenge these assumptions has not been acknowledged in public discourse. Efforts on the part of government to successfully place children of color while ignoring their environmental nuances is now embraced by the most politically conservative members of society (Mayer, 2008). Those who object do so only to the extent of what programs serve what population of children and how much they should cost. In the aftermath is heretofore seldom acknowledged is the environmental singularity of White Social Workers as conduit of foster care disparities.

The placement of children of color into foster care by Eurocentric Canadian/U.S. Social Workers is contingent upon a Eurocentric environmental experience. This experience may be problematic for children of color due to their divergence from traditional Eurocentric norms. As per traditional norms the Eurocentric experience is defined relative to Norton's (1993) construct where the sustaining and nurturing environments are experienced as one and the same. That singularity minimizes challenges to child welfare in placing White children into foster care. For children of color the sustaining and nurturing environments are separate as in duality. That duality poses challenges to families of color when placing their children into foster care by less informed White Social Workers. …