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Vol. 14, No. 3
June 2009

Child Welfare's Response to Diversity

The US Census Bureau Predicts that by 2050 . . .

  • Minorities, now roughly a third of the U.S. population, will be the majority.
  • The Hispanic population will almost triple; nearly one in three U.S. residents will be Hispanic in 2050.
  • The African American population is projected to increase 1%, to 65.7 million (15% of the population).
  • Americans of Asian descent are projected to rise from 5.1% to 9.2% of the population.
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives are projected to rise from 4.9 million to 8.6 million (or from 1.6% to 2% of the total population).
  • The number of people who identify themselves as being of two or more races will more than triple, from 5.2 million to 16.2 million.

Source: US Census Bureau, 2008

Rising diversity might be seen by some as unwelcome news for the child welfare system, since it is clear we are already struggling with this issue. For example, we are trying to understand and respond to the phenomenon of disproportionality, which occurs when children from some groups (e.g., African Americans, American Indians) are represented in the child welfare system in greater numbers than they are in the general population (Hill, 2006). Data suggest disproportionality is decreasing in North Carolina, but it is still a significant concern (Duncan, et al., 2009).

Another indicator that the child welfare system is struggling with diversity is the existence of racial disparity in service provision—the fact that families and children from some minority groups receive inferior treatment. For example, although when class and other risk factors are controlled for African Americans have lower rates of abuse and neglect than whites (Sedlak & Schultz, 2005), African American children are far more likely to be substantiated for maltreatment and removed from their homes than white children (CDF, 2006; Derezotes & Poertner, 2001).

Despite these challenges, here in North Carolina we see our growing diversity as a valuable opportunity. For more than a
decade we have been bringing the family-centered approach to all we do, guided in part by these principles of partnership:

  • Everyone desires respect
  • Everyone needs to be heard
  • Everyone has strengths
  • Judgments can wait
  • Partners share power
  • Partnership is a process

Child welfare practitioners across North Carolina have discovered that although they are not easy to apply, these principles have the power to help us see the strengths and potential solutions that lie in our diversity. Although cultural and other differences can pose challenges, more and more practitioners now see the benefits that learning about, accepting, and supporting diversity can bring.

Of course, we still have a long way to go. This issue of Practice Notes presents information to help you as you seek to improve outcomes for families and children of all kinds.

Contents of this Issue

Recognizing and Honoring Differences

Strengthening Supervision: Tips for Helping Caseworkers Navigate Cultural Differences

Race and Child Welfare

Building Cultural Sensitivity: Debunking Myths about Kinship Care

Enhancing Child Welfare Practice with American Indians

Resources for Learning More about Working with Diversity

References for this Issue

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