Academic journal article Child Welfare

Continuum of Readiness for Collaboration, ICWA Compliance, and Reducing Disproportionality

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Continuum of Readiness for Collaboration, ICWA Compliance, and Reducing Disproportionality

Article excerpt

From 2008-2010, a California Breakthrough Series Collaborative (BSC) addressed the disproportionality of African American and American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children in public child welfare services in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Casey Family Program, the Child and Family Policy Institute of California, and the California Department of Social Services. The result was the development of the Continuum of Readiness, to be utilized by California counties to make strategic decisions to achieve Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) compliance and address AI/AN disproportionality through collaboration with tribes and urban Indian communities.

There are more American Indian/Alaska Native children (AI/AN, also referred collectively as "Indian") under the jurisdiction of the California public child welfare system than would be expected based on the population of American Indian children. Given this disparity, many child welfare social workers have caseloads that include tribal youth, yet are challenged when interacting with tribes and urban Indian programs because of long histories of poor engagement and little or no relationships with tribes. From 2008-2010, the California Breakthrough Series Collaborative developed a Continuum of Readiness to help reduce disproportionality and make low-cost strategic decisions to achieve ICWA compliance, addressing disproportionate AI/AN cases through collaboration with tribes and urban Indian programs.

The Challenge: Addressing Disproportionality on County and State Levels

In many states across the United States, AI/AN children are disproportionately represented (National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 2011). The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) provides information on those children who self-identify as AI/AN and are placed by state child welfare agencies in foster care. It is estimated that approximately two-thirds of AI/ AN children in foster care are placed by state child welfare agencies and one-third to 40 percent are placed in foster care by tribal authorities (Earle, 2000). The Preliminary FY 2010 AFCARS Report shows that nationally,

As of September 30,2010:

* There were a total of 408,425 children in foster care.

* 2 percent of children in state foster care systems (7,839 children) were AI/AN.

* 2 percent of the children waiting to be adopted in state foster care systems on September 30,2010 (1,801 children) were AI/AN.

* 3 percent of the children adopted from the public foster care system (1,822 children) were AI/AN.

Nationally, AI/AN children were overrepresented in foster care at more than 1.6 times the expected level, and are overrepresented among the children in foster care who are awaiting adoption at two to four times the expected level (Maple <$c Hay, 2004). AI/AN children are significantly overrepresented in foster care in a number of states. (NICWA, 2007).

The 2010 California Department of Finance Child Population Projections (Needell et al., 2012) notes that, in the state:

* There are 37,230 Native Americans under the age of 18.

* The total population under 18 is 9,295,040.

* AI/AN children make up .4% of the state's population under the age of 18.

* 1.4 percent of children in publicly funded foster care systems (799 children) were AI/AN.

To put these numbers in context, it is useful to look at prevalence rates per 1,000 children across ethnic groups. In California, almost 22 out of every 1,000 NA children were in foster care.

Over the last 20 years, a shift has occurred from federal to local responsibility for social service and child welfare programs. Since Hunt et al. (2001) discussed this "devolution" and the need for greater collaboration, more effective practice initiatives have emerged (family to family, family finding, signs of safety, team decisionmaking, and active efforts). These efforts support the movement from child protection and removal to family services and prevention, which is in alignment with federal and private sector goals to reduce the number of children in care. …

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