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June 2022Vol. 23, No. 5Framework for Systems Reform Addresses Racial Disproportionality

A recent article in the International Journal on Child Maltreatment: Research, Policy, and Practice proposes a framework to guide systems change in child welfare, with a goal of improving outcomes for children and families of color. The article, "A Connectedness Framework: Breaking the Cycle of Child Removal for Black and Indigenous Children," begins with an overview of the history of child removal, with a specific focus on Alaska Native, American Indian, and African-American children. These populations share a history of forced child removal through residential boarding schools and slavery, and they continue to be disproportionately overrepresented in the child welfare system.

The authors recommend transforming the child welfare system to one that is based on community-driven efforts and relationality, rather than child removal, using a framework inspired by the Indigenous Connectedness Framework. The Indigenous Connectedness Framework highlights mechanisms for building and maintaining healthy relationships to family, community, environment, ancestors/future generations, culture/spirit, and self. The article's proposed Connectedness Framework for Systems Change features similar concepts to apply to child welfare systems.   

The article concludes with the following recommendations for a different approach to child welfare: 
  • Oppressed populations should have a prominent role in designing culturally appropriate systems of care for the safety of their children.
  • Federally recognized tribes should be able to design and implement their own child protection systems. 
  • Tribal courts should have jurisdictions over child protection.
  • Neighborhoods need to be revitalized.
  • Families should not live in fear of having their children removed.
  • Funding should be allocated to effective community-led and community-strengthening programs.
  • The child welfare system should be built upon a relational framework that focuses on community-driven efforts, lived experience, and ending disproportionality.