This guest post was written by Salma Hussein.
There is growing evidence that supports the role systematic racism and the workers biases contribute in the overrepresentation of families of color serviced in the child welfare. Consequently, resulting in unjust, unnecessary and unequal treatments that go on to influence both access and utilization of supportive services that are meant to assist families.
In the article written by Lorthridge, Croskey, Pecora, Chambers, & Fatemi, in 2012 we learn that disproportionality has been linked to a number of multi-level factors that overlap and have various impacts. These factors include parent and family risk factors, community risk factors, and organizational and systematic factors. For instance, in the parent and family risk factors, it is said that disproportionality exists because of a disproportionate need that exists. Risk factors including un-(under) employment, inadequate housing, substance abuse and other debilitating conditions are more likely to be present in families of color. Furthermore, the disproportionality of children of color in the child welfare system will not change unless these risk factors are reduced.
To improve child welfare services for families of color a multi level approach is suggested. Focusing on addressing parent and family, community and organizational and systematic risk factors that contributes to disproportionality. The idea is that all families and children live in communities that are then impacted by the organization they receive services from. The disproportionality mitigation model that was discussed in this article attempted to address risk factors at multiple levels.
The committee that was assigned to undertake the self -evaluation portion of the study felt it would be much easier to start by looking at the data, and then asking agencies/departments what they thought the causes were. The data that was examined came from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, and included demographic information obtained from every section of the child welfare procedure. The analysis revealed that African-American families experienced poorer outcomes.
Particular strengths of this article is that it promotes further research to further investigate in determining specific factors that contribute to making some communities overrepresented in both entry and existing the child welfare system. Additionally, the article dispels myths about permanency by promoting a multi-level approach in working with families and communities. Similarly, a limitation of the study was a lack of a system to ensure case records to be readily and easily accessible for further use. Also, the number of African-American families involved in the comparison group study was very small. It is imperative to include more African-American in future research, in hopes of having research participants reflect service recipients. By doing so, we may be able to better understand strategies for improving the profession for all families, particularly communities that are disproportionally represented.
Lorthridge, J., Mc Croskey, J., Pecora, P.J., Chambers, R. & Fatemi, M. (2012). Strategies for improving child welfare services for families of color: First findings of a community-based initiative in Los Angeles. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 281-288.