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July/August 2021Vol. 22, No. 7The Idea of Removing Race From Child Removal Decisions

An article from The Imprint explores the idea of removing race and other demographic-identifying information from removal decisions. The idea is growing in popularity and has shown limited success; however, there are concerns and pushback from those within the field.

Children and families of color are disproportionally represented in child welfare, and evidence has shown that racial bias and the systemic racism endemic in many institutions contributes to this disproportionality and disparity in services. In an effort to counteract this, "blind removals" were piloted in Nassau County, NY, a decade ago. In blind removals, a committee of child welfare workers make their decisions without knowing the family members' names, race, or any other identifying information, such as zip codes, education, and income level.

With implementation of the pilot, the percentage of Black children removed from their homes was reduced from 57 percent to 21 percent. The success of the program led officials to expand it statewide, and counties in other states adopted the same method. 

Despite this initial success, new data show that the decline in removals in Nassau County was neither steady nor consistent. The percentage of Black children entering care fluctuated every year and ranged from as low as 35.5 percent to as high as 61.9 percent. The data collected were also inconsistent between years and have been generally accepted without a peer-review process. Some child welfare workers feel that the blind removal process will have a negative impact on their ability to do their job. Some cite concerns about the time the process takes and the potential impact on emergency situations. Others have concerns that the process is potentially dehumanizing and that multiple adverse experiences add a layer of complexity to cases that the method will be unable to handle. It also does not address some of the initial reasons Black families and other minorities are brought to the attention of child welfare agencies in the first place, such as conditions linked to poverty and barriers to accessing resources to help mitigate risk factors. 

The article, "Color-Blind Ambition," by Jeremy Loudenback, is available from The Imprint.