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Vol. 6, No. 2
May 2001

African American 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.

Others strongly 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.

Practice Notes 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.


Overrepresentation and NC's Child Welfare System

Data On Kids of Color in Foster Care in North Carolina

Understanding the Overrepresentation of African Americans in the Child Welfare System

African American Families and Child Welfare

Overrepresentation May Not Be the Problem Many Believe It Is

Working With African American Families

Addressing the Overrepresentation of African Americans in the Child Welfare System

Don't Overlook Strengths in Black Families Headed By Single Parents

Self-Assessment for Those Who Work With African Americans And Other Minorities

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