Academic journal article Child Welfare

Addressing Disproportionality through Undoing Racism, Leadership Development, and Community Engagement

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Addressing Disproportionality through Undoing Racism, Leadership Development, and Community Engagement

Article excerpt

In 2005 the Texas 79th legislature passed Senate Bill 6, which included mandates to address disproportionality. This article will describe how the Texas Department of Family Protective Services in collaboration with Casey Family Programs' Texas State Strategy systems improvement initiative is addressing disproportionality statewide through promising practices and innovations in undoing racism trainings, values-based leadership development, and community engagement strategies.

In 2005 the Texas 79th legislature passed Senate Bill 6, mandating the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) to address disproportionality, specifically to

provide cultural competency training to all service delivery staff; increase targeted recruitment for foster and adoptive parents to meet the needs of children waiting for homes; target recruitment efforts to ensure diversity among child welfare staff, and develop collaborative community partnerships to provide culturally competent services to children and families of every race and ethnicity. Qames, Green, & Rodriguez, 2006, p. 9)

Texas was required to determine "whether Child Protective Services (CPS) enforcement actions [were] disproportionately initiated against any racial or ethnic group after accounting for other relevant factors" (Texas Health and Human Services Commission [HHSC], 2006, p. 1). In 2005 data showed that "African American children in Texas were almost twice as likely as Anglo or Hispanic children to be reported as victims of child abuse and neglect" (Department of Family Protective Services, 2007). Since the mandate, Texas' efforts to address disproportionality have been nationally visible, as evidenced by learning exchanges with other states such as Washington, Michigan, and Kentucky. Spurred by interests in systems change, leadership development, legislative support for systems improvement, and integrating undoing racism trainings into leadership development, these states have sought to adopt strategies successful in Texas to their own situations.

Texas' disproportionality work began when concerns were raised in the late 1990s by a child protective services regional director, who was successful in developing a plan and vision for Project HOPE (Helping Our People Excel), a One-Stop Service Center (Belanger, 2002). When this regional director became the Assistant Commissioner of CPS, she initiated changes modeled on Project HOPE to address the issue statewide (J. James, personal communication, February 21, 2007). Texas recognized its problems prior to the legislative mandate and collaborated with Casey Family Programs through the Texas State Strategy systems improvement initiative in 2004, expanding their partnership "to concentrate resources and energy to establish intensive planning and implementation processes to reduce disproportionality in the Texas child welfare system" Qames et al., 2006, p. 3). Casey and CPS partnered to bring regional directors and program administrators from the two largest Texas regions (Houston, Arlington /Dallas-Fort Worth) to a two-day planning meeting. An expanded community advisory model used in developing Project HOPE became the strategy for expanding regional efforts. That year, the governor also issued an order for reform, which the HHSC identified disproportionality as a reform recommendation.

Inaugurating a statewide, multiyear response to disproportionality, the Houston and Arlington /Dallas-Fort Worth areas were selected as pilot sites due to the large concentration of African American children in care. In 2005 a Regional Community Advisory Committee on Disproportionality was established for the Houston area and a regional steering committee and three advisory committees representing three counties were established for the Arlington /Dallas-Fort Worth area. With broad stakeholder representation, chartered committees provided ongoing guidance for disproportionality planning and implementation work including recommendations for change and informing regional and state policymakers and CPS management. …

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