Friday, July 17, 2009

Addressing Racial Disparities in Foster Care

On June 23rd the Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare, in collaboration with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, held a Congressional briefing on Racial Disproportionality and Disparities in Our Nation’s Child Welfare System. Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families has posted a summary of the event. A panel of experts discussed the history of racial disparities and child welfare; the experiences of different racial and ethnic groups; lessons from the families that have experienced involvement with the child welfare system; and lessons from the states that can inform federal policy.

This month's Judges' Page, a newsletter produced by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the National CASA Association examines the role of the courts and provides examples of court efforts to reduce racial disproportionality in child welfare.
NCJFCJ recognizes that judges, through their decisions, affect the daily lives of the hundreds of thousands of children and families that walk into the nation’s courtrooms. Leadership from the bench must be bold and courageous in bringing the issues of disproportionality to the forefront. Judges must examine personal beliefs and biases and engage broad-based partners in developing specific action plans designed to reduce disproportionality, with the goal of transforming practice at every level and point in the dependency, juvenile justice, domestic violence and adult criminal court systems.
For policies to address racial equity in child welfare.

UPDATE: Please note that the summary of the Congressional briefing mis-identifies one state system. (Our thanks to Richard Wexler for pointing out this error!) One of the panelists, Antonia Ybarra, described her experience with the Iowa Department of Human Services not Ohio.

From her bio: Ms. Ybarra is an enrolled member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. In addition to her work and many community activities, Ms. Ybarra is proudly raising her two grandchildren. Ms. Ybarra spent 15 months fighting to obtain custody of her son’s children from the Department of Human Services in Woodbury County, Iowa.

She shares the story of her experience to let it be known that there are serious problems with the Child Welfare System. Ms. Ybarra feels her story may have turned out differently if she was not blessed to have had a knowledgeable attorney and the support from her community, as well as her family and friends. Her message is that the system needs to make changes. Child Welfare must change the way they make decisions before children are placed in foster care instead of with their loving, capable families. She believes that there needs to be programs that will help the parents, or family members, keep children with the family. She hopes her story will help change the way the Child Welfare System impacts the lives of children and families.


  1. The summary of the Congressional Briefing is quite useful, but it states that Antonia Ybarra's struggles were with a child welfare agency in Ohio. Actually, it was Iowa. That's important both in fairness to Ohio and because the county Ms. Ybarra had to deal with in Iowa is notorious for its ill-treatment of Native American families.

    Richard Wexler
    Executive Director
    National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

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  3. Thank you Richard, I will note that in an update to the post. Arlene