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Similar to other systematic constructs in America, the child welfare system in this country is riddled with racial disparities as Black children find themselves disproportionately represented in foster care. 

Foster care is supposed to create a safe, stable and transitional environment for children in crisis, but that’s not always the reality for Black kids as they are not only more likely to experience removal from their homes but also more likely to be placed in foster care.

In 2020, Black children made up about 14% of the population of children in the United States, but in the child welfare system, they represent 23% of those in foster care. For context, white children made up almost 50% of the population, but only 43% of the children in foster care.

According to VeryWellFamily, Black children are twice as likely to enter the foster care system as White children and remain in the system for about nine months longer on average.

Agencies also struggle with placing Black children with Black foster parents due to disparities in Black families trying to adopt.

“[In] the child welfare system they often don’t have enough families who are willing to adopt, [and] they don’t have enough families who are willing to adopt the children who are actually available for adoption,” Susan Dusza Guerra Leksander, the clinical director at PACT, An Adoption Alliance, told VeryWellFamily.

And while families of other races do adopt Black children, they often struggle to help the child navigate the unforgiving experience of growing up Black in America. 

“[W]hite (or other race) adoptive/foster parents can’t teach their adoptive/foster children the Black experience the same way as or as well as a Black parent could,” Aaron Johnson, founder and president of WAT! Black Family Adoption Assistance, Inc., told VeryWellFamily. “Sure, they can read books or blogs and get by well enough, but they won’t ever be able to teach (or relate to) the Black experience as well as someone who has lived it.”

The failures of the foster care system can be more detrimental to a child’s life than most people realize. Some researchers believe many of the youth who age out of the child welfare system often end up in a “foster-care-to-prison pipeline.” 

Ashly Marie Yamat, explains the foster care-to-prison pipeline in the Justice Policy Journal, which was published in 2020.

“While acknowledging that the connection between school and juvenile justice is prevalent, there lies a different but similar pipeline that must also be explored, Yamat wrote. “Here, the relationship between a child’s upbringing – or lack thereof – and the juvenile justice system explains how upwards of 90% of foster children will come into contact with the juvenile justice system before leaving child welfare (Juvenile Law Center, 2018).”

She continued, “As children are funneled from their foster homes into juvenile detention it is important to understand how one broken system works hand in hand with the another through what is known as the “foster-care-to-prison pipeline.”

Understanding the root causes for the overrepresentation of Black children in foster care is almost impossible to pinpoint, but research suggests both environmental and societal issues are at play. 

“Statistically, about 70% of the children who enter foster care, enter care because of neglect, which is poverty-related (homelessness, failure to thrive, substance abuse, etc). Poverty statistically impacts minority families at a higher rate than non-minority families,” Kimberly Offutt, national director of family support and engagement at Bethany Christian Services, told VeryWellFamily.

Black families are also more likely to be investigated by child protective services as well as more likely to be removed after investigations, according to the publication. 

“More prevalent issues [causing disproportion] are institutionalized racism, discrimination, and implicit bias towards minority families. Implicit bias training of child welfare staff has not been enough to tackle these issues,” Dr. Offutt said.

There is no question that more light needs to be shed on the problems Black children face in the foster care system. Black children who come up in harsh family circumstances should have the right to find a family who will love and protect them. This starts with us paying more attention, becoming more involved in the child welfare system, and learning where changes are needed. 

Black children deserve the opportunity for a happy childhood just as much as any other child.

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The post Foster Care: Why Are Black Children Overrepresented In Child Welfare? appeared first on NewsOne.

Foster Care: Why Are Black Children Overrepresented In Child Welfare?  was originally published on newsone.com