6, No. 2
Children in the Child Welfare System
The number of African American
children in foster care is out of proportion with their numbers
in the general population. Of the nearly 11,000 children in out-of-home
care in North Carolina, almost half are African American, although
blacks make up approximately 27% of the population 19-and-under
across the state.
Some people believe
the cause of this situation is a complex web of economic and societal
factors that extend far beyond the child welfare system. They argue
that, because these factors put black families at risk, it makes
sense that black families have a higher degree of involvement with
child welfare. Given the circumstances, the argument goes, the system
is serving African Americans well.
To support this
conclusion, they point to the tangible benefits the system provides
black children. Studies have shown that receiving child welfare
services reduces a black child's risk of incarceration and death
by homicide and increases his chances of receiving mental health
and medical care when he needs it.
disagree with this view. They believe the child welfare system is
failing black families. To support their view they point not only
to the numbers of black children in foster care, but to the overall
experience African Americans have in the system. Studies have shown
that, compared to others, black parents are more likely to have
their children placed in out-of-home care, to receive fewer services,
and to have their parental rights terminated.
Once in foster
care, black children generally spend more time there than other
kids. They experience fewer visits with their parents and siblings.
If the plan is adoption, African American children usually wait
longer for an adoptive home.
All these things,
critics say, are clear signs something is wrong with our system.
To fix it they call for progressive, culturally sensitive laws,
policies, and practices. If the system reformed itself, they argue,
the number of African Americans in foster care would decline to
reflect their numbers in the general population.
cannot resolve this debate. It can, however, provide you with facts
about kids of color in foster care in North Carolina, discuss laws
and policies related to this topic, and suggest strategies for working
with African American families and children.
We hope this information
will inspire you to reflect on how this issue relates to your practice,
to discuss it with your peers, and to reaffirm your commitment to
make a difference in your community every day.
Additional resources related to this topic: