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March 2016Vol. 17, No. 1Report Compares Disproportionality Rates Across the States

Many data sources indicate that children of color are disproportionately represented in foster care systems. Disproportionality occurs when groups of children are present in the child welfare system at higher or lower percentages than in the general population. A new technical assistance bulletin from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) presents disproportionality rates for all 50 States.

The report indicates that, in general, African-American and American Indian / Alaska Native (AI/AN) children are overrepresented in the foster care population, but rates of disproportionality vary from State to State. Nearly every State has a disproportionate number of African-American children in foster care, with most rates of foster care between 2 and 4 times the proportion of African-American children in the population. Nationally, AI/AN children are overrepresented in foster care at a rate of 2.4 times their rate in the general population. Twelve States have AI/AN children in their systems at 4 times or more their proportion of the State's child population.  In some States, AI/AN children are in the child welfare system at a rate nearly 20 times their proportion in the population.

In addition, the report analyzes changes over time by comparing AFCARS and Census data from 2000 and 2012. Over the 12-year period, some States, such as Indiana, have significantly reduced the overrepresentation of African-American children, so that the national index of African-American disproportionality has dropped from 2.5 to 2.0. Some States have shown increases in the overrepresentation of American Indian children in foster care. The nationwide index of American Indian disproportionality has increased over the last 12 years from 1.5 to 2.4. Hispanic/Latino children are overrepresented in five States with rates varying from 1.1 to 7.1. 

Access the report, Disproportionality Rates for Children of Color in Foster Care (Fiscal Year 2013), published by the NCJFCJ Juvenile Law Program with support from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, at (2 MB).