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March 2016Vol. 17, No. 1Commissioner's Page

The following is the monthly message from Rafael López, the Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families. Each message focuses on the current Children's Bureau Express Spotlight theme and highlights the Bureau's work on the topic.

Racial disproportionality continues to be a challenge in child welfare. A recent bulletin (PDF - 2 MB) from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) examining U.S. disproportionality rates during fiscal year 2013 indicates that African-American and American Indian / Alaska Native (AI/AN) children are overrepresented in the foster care population. While African-American and AI/AN children represented approximately 14 percent and 1.3 percent of the national child population, respectively, they accounted for almost 25 percent and 2 percent of children in care.

What's more, there is a disproportionately higher rate of homelessness among families of color. According to a Child Trends report (PDF - 282 KB) examining indicators of homeless children and youth, while Black families with children comprised roughly 14 percent of U.S. families, they accounted for approximately 48 percent of sheltered homeless families with children. By comparison, White families with children represented only 23 percent of sheltered homeless families. These homeless children and families often come into contact with child welfare, and they have their own particular service needs and challenges.

The Administration on Children, Youth and Families is committed to ensuring that all children receive the targeted and culturally informed services they need to work toward positive life outcomes. One way the Children's Bureau is doing this is by funding programs and projects that are designed to reduce racial disproportionality and improve outcomes for children and families of color.

A program working to reduce racial disproportionality and achieve positive outcomes for children and families is California Partners for Permanency (CAPP), part of the Federal Permanency Innovations Initiative. The project aims to reduce the number of children in long-term foster care, focusing on the overrepresented populations of African-American and AI/AN children in child welfare systems. The program created a Child and Family Practice Model that seeks to addresses institutional racism and trauma in public child welfare systems and builds on the strengths, needs, and traditions of the communities served. The practice model honors the history and culture of families and rests on a foundation of honest and humble partnerships with communities and Tribes. For more information, visit

The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) Step Up! Diligent Recruitment project is designed to better meet the needs of children of color in the State child welfare system. CYFD recently completed activities funded by a 5-year Children's Bureau Diligent Recruitment grant. The project featured a grass-roots strategy for finding racially and ethnically diverse resource families and communities of support that reflect their population of children in care. For more information, visit the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment website at

All children, youth, and families deserve supports and services that address their particular needs and build on their strengths. Child welfare systems and services that respectfully respond to people of all cultures, races, and ethnic backgrounds are best equipped to help protect children and preserve families.