The Color of Care: Legislators Are Seeking Answers to Difficult Questions about Race and Child Welfare

By Williams-Mbengue, Nina; Christian, Steve | State Legislatures, April 2007 | Go to article overview

The Color of Care: Legislators Are Seeking Answers to Difficult Questions about Race and Child Welfare


Williams-Mbengue, Nina, Christian, Steve, State Legislatures


Thirty-three percent of kids in foster care are African American, but they make up only 15 percent of the child population. Yet federal studies indicate that child abuse and neglect is actually lower for black families than it is for whites.

Why the disparity?

Lawmakers in a number of states are requiring answers, and social service agencies are doing some difficult soul searching. One of the major questions is whether the nation's child welfare system undermines the strength of families, particularly families of color.

The statistics are troubling. A series of large, federally mandated studies found that parents of color are no more likely than white parents to abuse or neglect their children and showed no significant difference in overall maltreatment rates between black and white families. In fact, an analysis of the 1993 National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect by Westat researchers found that rates of maltreatment for black families are lower than rates for white families, once we control for other factors, says Robert H. Hill, a senior researcher at Westat, a research corporation based in Maryland.

Some people believe the issue is economic, not racial. African American families and neighborhoods are disproportionately poor, and poverty is highly correlated with a higher risk of child abuse.

Overrepresentation in the child welfare system may have more to do with poverty and its related social problems such as substance abuse and single parenthood than it does with race. "The available studies do not allow us to identify causes," says Hill. "You can't assume that racial differences are the result of bias or racism. On the other hand, some racial differences may indeed result from race-related factors. At this point, we just don't know."

Although racial bias may not be the cause of overrepresentation in child welfare, it is clear that black families and children are treated differently than whites once they are in the system. Studies have shown that families of color receive fewer and lower quality services, fewer contacts by caseworkers, and less access to mental health and drug treatment services. Black and Hispanic children are twice as likely as white children to be placed with relatives, and yet relative foster parents tend to get less training and fewer support services than do non-relative foster parents.

"There is widespread agreement that, compared to white children and families in the child welfare system, children of color and their families have less access to services and their outcomes are poorer," says Peter Pecora, senior director of research for Casey Family Programs, a private operating foundation based in Seattle.

Several studies have also shown that children of color are more likely to be removed from home and to remain in foster care longer, and are less likely to be returned to their parents than are white children.

MAKING RACIAL EQUITY A PRIORITY

Raising these issues, let alone solving them, can be a challenge. But it is an important first step toward change.

"Action begins when state or local leaders identify racial inequities as a serious problem and resolve to address it," says Ernestine Jones, a child welfare researcher at Howard University. Jones is involved in a national initiative called the Casey-CSSP Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare. Jones recently completed a study of 10 jurisdictions working on the problem. They include sites in San Francisco; San Antonio, Texas; Sioux City, Iowa; King County, Wash.; and Guilford and Wake counties in North Carolina. Programs in Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota were also part of the study.

"What we learned is that impetus for action can come from inside or outside the child welfare agency, but that it seems most powerful when it comes from both," she says.

While the work of each jurisdiction studied by Jones is different, she did find similarities. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Color of Care: Legislators Are Seeking Answers to Difficult Questions about Race and Child Welfare
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.