Factors Contributing to Disproportionality in the Child Welfare System: Views from the Legal Community (Report) - Social Work

Factors Contributing to Disproportionality in the Child Welfare System: Views from the Legal Community (Report)

By Social Work

  • Release Date - Published: 2010-07-01
  • Book Genre: Social Science
  • Author: Social Work
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Factors Contributing to Disproportionality in the Child Welfare System: Views from the Legal Community (Report) Social Work read online review & book description:

Racial disproportionality in the child welfare system refers to the overrepresentation of a certain racial or ethnic group in comparison with their percentage in the child population.This phenomenon has most significantly affected African American children, with the most recent national data indicating that 32 percent of children in foster care are African American, although African American children represent only 15 percent of the child population in the United States (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, 2008). This disproportionate representation is a concern as research indicates that there are no significant differences in the actual incidence of maltreatment among children of different racial groups (Sedlak & Broadhurst, 1996; Sedlak & Schultz, 2005). On the basis of data from the federally funded National Incidence Studies (NIS) of Child Abuse and Neglect, Sedlak and Broadhurst (1996) and Sedlak and Schultz (2005) found no statistically significant differences in overall maltreatment rates between African American and white families. In fact, after controlling for factors including income and family structure, the most recent NIS found significantly lower rates of maltreatment in African American families than in white families (Sedlak & Broadhurst, 1996; Sedlak & Schultz, 2005). Although the existence of racial disproportionality has been well documented, the causes of this phenomenon are less clear (Barth, 2005; Derezotes & Poertner, 2005). Studies that have sought to identify contributing factors have relied largely on analyses of state and national child welfare data sets and have often produced inconsistent findings. These studies may also lack the robust data necessary to fully explain the broad and complex array of factors related to this issue. Furthermore, a critical shortcoming in the existing body of research is the lack of inclusion of external stakeholders in attempts to understand and address disproportionality. Beginning with the federally mandated Child and Family Service Reviews, a key element of child welfare system reform has been the engagement of external stakeholders as critical partners in program improvement efforts (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, 2006). The engagement of external stakeholders in efforts to address disproportionality can provide the opportunity to obtain critical insight necessary to understand and address this complex phenomenon. The lack of information from those in the legal community is especially problematic because of the significant role the legal system plays in child welfare cases. Although child welfare agencies are the first responders in cases of alleged maltreatment, without the sanction of the court, children cannot be placed in foster care or returned to their homes. As a result, the legal community has significant influence on child welfare outcomes and is a major stakeholder in the issue of disproportionality.

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