• August 2003
  • Vol. 4, No. 6

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Seeking Causes: Racial Disproportionality in Child Welfare

Though it is well known certain racial and ethnic groups are overrepresented in the child welfare system, the reasons for this are not clear. In September 2002, the Children's Bureau hosted a Research Roundtable on Racial Disproportionality in the Child Welfare System in Washington, DC, to explore this topic further. Seven papers commissioned for that roundtable were recently published in a special issue of Children and Youth Services Review (25:5/6).

By considering the ways in which children both enter and exit the child welfare system, the papers explore a number of possible explanations for racial and ethnic disproportionality. Some of the findings include:

  • Disproportionality may be more pronounced at some decision-making points (e.g., investigation) than at others (e.g., substantiation) (Fluke, Yuan, Hedderson, Curtis).
  • Family structure was found to be significant. Race and ethnicity were found to have a different effect on family reunification rates in two-parent families than in single-parent families (Harris and Courtney).
  • Changes in policy and practice may be effective over time in reducing racial and ethnic disproportionalities, particularly those arising from differences in duration of out-of-home care (Wulczyn).

An eighth paper on the topic will appear in a forthcoming issue of Children and Youth Services Review. (Articles can be ordered online at www.sciencedirect.com.) All papers highlight the need for additional research in this area.

Related Item

Read more about racial disproportionality in child welfare in "Disproportionality in Juvenile Justice System May Have Roots in Child Welfare" in the December 2002/January 2003 issue of Children's Bureau Express.

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