Academic journal article Child Welfare

Evaluating Multisystemic Efforts to Impact Disproportionality through Key Decision Points

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Evaluating Multisystemic Efforts to Impact Disproportionality through Key Decision Points

Article excerpt

Working in four communities, Casey Foundation / Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) Alliance on Racial Equity (the Alliance)1 have developed a Racial Equity Scorecard for measuring disproportionality at key decision points for use in impacting disproportionality in the child welfare system. The four communities include King County, Washington; Guilford County, North Carolina; Ramsey County, Minnesota; and Woodbury County, Iowa. Data from one site-Woodbury County, Iowa-are used as an example. This article provides the background and method for identification and measurement of key decision points in the child welfare system to track change effected by multisystemic approaches to reduce disproportionality. Interpretation of the results in the scorecard is provided and recommendations for future interventions based on the data are discussed.

Iowa's children of color, like those across the nation, are experiencing a level of disproportionality in the child welfare system that has and continues to cause concern. "More than half of the 500,000 children in foster care on any day in America come from ethnic minority families even though children from minority communities make up less than half the children in this country" (Hill, 2006). In the child welfare system in Iowa, over 20% of cases involve children of color, while minority children make up just 12% of Iowa's population (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], 2001). Despite this overrepresentation, data from the National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect indicates that these children are not at any greater risk for abuse or neglect (Sedlak & Broadhurst, 1996). An additional concern is the differing treatment received by children of color compared to white children at key points in the child welfare decision-making process. These key points include the decision for out-of-home placement, the number of these placements, and birth family reunification rate (DHHS, 2003; see also Casey Family Programs, 2007).

In Woodbury County, Iowa, the child welfare system has become increasingly involved with native families, a by-product of dominant-culture destruction of native family systems and traditions (Bear King, 2001). In 2006 there were 752 Native American children living in Woodbury County, Iowa, of which 111 (or one in seven) were living in homes assigned to them by children's services (see Table 1). This alarming statistic has resulted in a multisys temic collaboration involving agencies and individuals to change the conditions that have resulted in this overrepresentation. This article is designed to provide a context for the challenge, a description of the development of the collaboration, a closer look at the numbers at key decision points through use of a racial equity scorecard, and the development of strategies for change based on scorecard findings.

Background

Sioux City Woodbury County, Iowa, is tucked into the "west coast" of Iowa, at the borders of Nebraska and South Dakota. It is also within easy driving distance of several area reservations, including Winnebago, Omaha, Santee, and Ponca in Nebraska and Yankton and Flandreau in South Dakota. From the time of first contact with white settlers, local indigenous people experienced multiple historically traumatic events such as forced relocation, broken treaties, imposed poverty, reservation allotment, boarding schools, and criminalization of their culture, religion, and customs.

In 1953 the Bureau of Indian Affairs administered Relocation Program Public Law 280 intending to relocate native families from reservations to urban areas. Industry needed workers and policymakers thought relocation would provide prosperity and complete assimilation for native people living in poverty on reservations. The law provided for travel and moving costs and a limited allowance toward living expenses before the first paycheck was in hand. In Sioux City this encouraged migration from area and more distant reservations. …

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