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The Overrepresentation of Minorities in the Child Welfare System

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The Overrepresentation of Minorities in the Child Welfare System
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Wilken, Carolyn
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The Overrepresentation of Minorities in the Child Welfare System

Lance Carroll II


ABSTRACT


Each year thousands of children, victims of abuse and neglect, are removed from their homes and placed into

state care through the foster care system. While many of these children are returned to their homes, many

others languish in the foster care system until they simply become unadoptablee." For minority children, the risk

of remaining in foster care is even greater. This article reviews the research in an effort to better understand

the overrepresentation of minorities in the child welfare system, and seeks to offer suggestions for reducing

the number of minority children who are not adopted.



INTRODUCTION


Child welfare services related to foster care are often described as a swinging pendulum. Swinging in one

direction, child welfare agencies go to great efforts to keep families together, even in the face of abusive

situations. In the other direction, these agencies view it as their duty and responsibility to remove children from

their families when there is suspicion of abuse. In recent years, a few highly publicized horrific cases of child

abuse have influenced policy makers to pressure child protective agencies to react quickly and decisively in

removing at-risk children from their families. Such policies have a cyclical effect and put increased pressure on

the foster care system. As more children are removed from abusive homes, the number of foster homes and

families needed to shelter these at-risk children increases dramatically. The longer children remain in the foster

care system, the less likely they are to return to their biological families, and the more likely their parents are

to have their parental rights terminated (Roberts, 2002). This in turn makes more children available for

adoption, creating a need for more adoptive homes, and because adoptive parents often come from the ranks

of foster care, the net result is the reduction of available foster care homes.



The Adoption and Safe Families Act, passed by the federal government in 1997, required states to have

a permanency plan for children in foster care and to initiate steps to terminate parental rights (TPR) for

those children who have been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months. The purpose of the act was

to make children who are languishing in foster care available for adoption (Roberts, 2002). Other legislation

has come about in direct response to specific, high profile cases. In 1998, Kayla McKean was beaten to

death. Florida's child welfare agency, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), failed to remove Kayla from

her home after several reports of child abuse (Freeman, 2003). The legislation which ensued was the 1999





Kayla McKean Child Protection Act which mandated stricter guidelines in investigating child abuse reports

(Winters, 2002). The act also requires law enforcement officials to review all child abuse reports; thus holding

law enforcement accountable for the child's safety (Snell, 2000). Within months of the enactment, the number

of children in Florida's foster care rose 38 percent (Winters, 2002).



In the act to quickly remove children from their homes, child welfare agencies may place these children in less

than idea circumstances. As long as children are removed from their dangerous living situations at home, it

is assumed these children are going to a safer place. Yet in the years 2000 until 2002, more than 60 children

have died while under Florida's state care and another 400 are missing (Winters, 2002).



In April of 2002, Riyla Wilson, a Miami foster care child, was reported missing when case workers from DCF went

to check up on her after her previous case worker resigned amidst allegations that she falsified checkups on

foster care children under her care. According to DCF records, Riyla's caretaker, Geralyn Graham, was the

girl's grandmother (Winters, 2002). Graham claims that people posing as case workers from DCF took Riyla

away from her in January of 2001. She did not file a missing persons report but continued to receive subsidies

worth $14,257 from the state for being Riyla's foster care parent (Canedy, 2002). Despite Graham's criminal

record which included grand theft, fraud, her use of 20 different aliases, and the fact that she had a

medical diagnosis of "psychotic syndrome," the state allowed her to be Riyla's foster care parent (Winters, 2002).



Welfare agencies are not just making mistakes in Florida. States are under such intense pressure to find

permanent homes for children in the foster care system that they often offer cash incentives and other benefits

for parents who are willing to adopt. In 2003, Raymond and Vanessa Jackson were under evaluation by the state

of New Jersey for the adoption of a seventh child when it was discovered they were starving four of their

adopted boys on a diet of peanut butter and plaster wallboard. The Jacksons, who had six adopted children in

custody and one foster child, received more than $30,000 from the state of New Jersey in 2002 (New York

Times Company, 2003).



Despite these instances of further abuse when children are removed from the home, the number of children in

foster care continues to climb. At any given time, it is estimated that approximately 581,000 children are in

foster care and of these, 125,000 are available for adoption (Blackstone & Hakim, 2003). Of these children in

foster care, approximately two-thirds are of African-American or Hispanic descent - 42 percent are African-

American (Simon & Vidal, 2003), while only comprising 12.3 percent of the national population (U.S. Department

of Commerce, 2001), and 15 percent are Hispanic (Simon & Vidal, 2003), while comprising 12.5 percent of

the national population (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2001). In Chicago, 95 percent of the children in the

child welfare system are minorities, and in 1997 it was found that 90 percent, or 40,700 of 43,300 children in

New York City's child welfare system were minorities (Roberts, 2002).



Very few minority parents are willing to adopt the widely overrepresented minority children in foster care. Those

who are willing face many barriers due to agency practices and unwritten policies (Roberts, 2002). Parents






from other ethnicities who are willing to adopt transracially must face resistance from the NAACP and the

National Association of Black Social Workers (Simon & Vidal, 2003). The lens through which adoption is viewed by

the public is a final factor as to why minority children continue to be overrepresented in the system.



This article reviews the research on the underlying issues and reasons for the overrepresentation of minorities in

the child welfare system. A brief overview of the foster care process will be explained in order to gain

an understanding of these issues. In addition, recommendations will be offered to fix a broken and

overburdened child welfare system that is in desperate need of repair.



Overview of the Foster Care Process


According to Federal law, child maltreatment is defined as, "serious harm to children which includes emotional

abuse, physical abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse caused by parents, extended family, or primary

caregivers" (National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, 2003). Though anyone can report suspected

child maltreatment, most reports are made by those required by State law to report child maltreatment.

These include child protection investigators, law enforcement officials, and child welfare workers. In 18 states,

the law requires everyone to report suspected child maltreatment.



In 2001, 2.7 million suspected cases of child maltreatment, involving 5 million children, were reported to

child protective service (CPS) agencies. Once a report is made, the case is either "screened in" or "screened out."

A case is screened out if there is not enough evidence to investigate a case of child maltreatment or the

alleged report does not meet a state's definition of child maltreatment. Of the 2.7 million reports in 2001, 1.8

million were screened in, while 870,000 were screened out (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003).



Once the report is screened in, a child protective service investigator will investigate the suspected

child maltreatment. By the end of the investigation, the investigator will determine whether the child maltreatment

is substantiated or unsubstantiated. The report of child maltreatment can be unsubstantiated if there is either

not enough evidence to conclude that child abuse or neglect occurred or that what happened to the child does

not meet the state's definition of maltreatment (National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, 2003). In

2001, 903,000 children were found to be victims of child maltreatment (U.S. Department of Health and

Human Services, 2003). Depending upon the severity of the maltreatment, the child may be removed from the

home and placed into the child welfare system. Whether or not the child is removed from the home, the family

may receive in-home services to prevent further abuse.



The Demographics of Maltreatment and Foster Care


In case studies of child maltreatment, the perpetrator is often living at or below the poverty line (National

Adoption Information Clearinghouse, 2004). In 2001, 11.7 million children were poor, which is 16.7 percent of

the poor population. Of these 11.7 million children, two-thirds are minorities, the exact ratio of minorities in the





child welfare system (US Bureau of the Census, 2001). Poverty, however, is not the sole factor as to why

minorities are being removed from the home. Racial stereotypes play a large factor in removing minority

children from the home.



According to a study by Roberts, black families are seen as being less willing to cooperate with in-home services

and less able to reform than white parents. As a result, child welfare policy has shifted in the past two decades

from spending less money on in-home services and more money on out-of-home services. Once minority children

are removed from the home, they are less likely than white children to return home (2002).



In 2001, approximately 275,000 children were removed from their homes as a result of child maltreatment (U.

S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title

45, Volume 4, Part 1355, Section 57, foster care is defined as, "24-hour substitute care for children outside their

own homes. The reporting system includes all children who have or had been in foster care at least 24 hours.

The foster care settings include, but are not limited to family foster homes, relative foster homes, group

homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, childcare institutions, and pre-adoptive homes" (Office of

HDS, Department of Health and Human Services, 2003).



Prior to 1996, there were no time limits established on the length of time children remained in foster care waiting

for their parents to gain the right to regain legal custody of their children. In 1996, Michigan passed legislation

which imposed a time limit of one year from the time children first entered foster care to the time they were put

up for adoption (Orr, Conna, Kulik, et al, 1998). The year after Michigan's legislation, Congress passed the

Adoption and Safe Families Act (Roberts, 2002).



As a result of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, foster care adoptions increased 78 percent from 1996 to 2000

(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001). However, a vast number of children are still languishing

in foster care. In 1996, approximately 520,000 children were in foster care. 11 percent of these children had been

in foster care for 3 to 4 years, and 10 percent had been in foster care for 5 years or longer (Snell, 2000). In

2001, there were 542,000 children in foster care. 11 percent had been in foster care for 3 to 4 years and 9

percent had been in foster care for 5 years or longer (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

2003). According to research by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Report System (AFCARS), when a child

in foster care reaches the age of 8 or 9, their likelihood of remaining in foster care becomes greater than

their likelihood of being adopted (2001).



Foster Care Challenges, Barriers to Adoption, and Minority Overrepresentation


Reviews of state programs paint a dismal picture of the foster care situation across the country. In January 2004,

a federal review revealed that Wisconsin was the 43rd state to fail in a review of its foster care system. If the

foster care system is not corrected within two years, Wisconsin could incur $1.4 million in federal fines. The

current federal law requires that foster care children be made available for adoption or returned home within

15 months. This timeline must be met in 100 percent of the cases if Wisconsin does not want to incur any






fines (Zhan, 2004). The risk of returning children home to dangerous living conditions or unsafe foster

homes increases due to the time pressures to remove children from foster care faced by Wisconsin and other states.



Throughout the country, child welfare workers are overworked, underpaid, and unsupported. Permanency plans

for children in foster care depends a large part on the effort of social workers. Critics argue minority children do

not receive as much care or attention as white children in the development of permanency plans. The quality

and quantity of social workers are two very important factors in seeing children move swiftly through the

system. Sadly, both of these characteristics are lacking in child welfare agencies across the nation (Zahn, 2004).



From Idaho, with the lowest foster care population of 1,817 to California, with the most children in foster care with

a population of 107,168 (Soper, 2004), there is a severe shortage of minority foster parents willing to foster or

adopt (Zahn, 2004). This leaves the burden of adopting minority children to white foster parents.



However, a number of organizations and authors have taken strong stances against interracial adoption. In its

1972 resolution, the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) adopted a formal position against

placing African-American children in white families: "Only a black family can transmit the emotional and

sensitive subtleties of perceptions and reactions essential for a black child's survival in a racist society" (Simon

& Vidal, 2003; Hollingsworth, 1998). A study by Johnson, Shireman, and Watson (1987) has shown that

matching ethnicity in placing foster children in adoptive homes helps the child identify with his or her race,

boosts self-esteem, and allows him or her to better cope with living in a racist society. However, the study did

find that children of color in white families do just as well as white adoptive children in white families. Of the

families studied in the research, 75 percent of the white families who adopted African-American children sent

their children to predominantly white schools and these children did just as well as their white counterparts

(1987). In 1998, The Child Welfare League of America's National Council of Latino Executives voiced opposition

to MEPA and also adopted a formal position against transracial adoption, arguing that the challenges of

parenting minority children can best be met by promoting same race adoptions. Furthermore, the council stated

that the overrepresentation of minorities in the child welfare system is due to higher rates of removal and

longer stays by black children in foster care (Simon & de Haymes, 2003).



Statistically, 4 out of 5 Americans are more likely to adopt a child of the same race. In addition, whites are

more likely than African-Americans or Hispanics to believe that children adopted out of foster will have

behavioral problems (Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 2002). Nevertheless, due to the lack of

available minority adoptive parents, legislatures have tried to take action; the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA)

and the Interethnic Adoption Provisions (IEP) are two pieces of legislation intended to eliminate barriers from

parents wanting to adopt transracially.



The shortage of minority foster parents can also be attributed to barriers they face in the actual adoption

process. Adoption fees are one such barrier for potential minority parents. These fees are essentially seen as

the buying and selling of babies. The black community, who may already be at a lower socioeconomic status






when compared to the white community as a whole, especially looks down upon this practice of setting adoption

fees (Rodriguez, 1990).



Agency practices have also contributed to the overrepresentation of minorities in the child welfare system. In a

1989 study that scrutinized agency practices across 13 public and private adoption agencies in Detroit, Los

Angeles, New York City, and Washington D.C., it was found that private agencies preferred couples who

came through their doors (Rodriguez, 1990). In addition, although agency policies have no formal regulations

on income requirements, one-third of the agencies did not accept applicants who were current welfare recipients

of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). In the late 1990's AFDC was reformed and is now known

as Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF). Finally, lack of knowledge is also another barrier to adoption.

For example, sixty-three percent of families surveyed in the study had no knowledge of the subsidies that would

be available to them if they decided to adopt (Rodriguez, 1990).



Research has found that in 21 sociology college textbooks and 16 readers published between 1998 and 2001, there

is very little information on adoption. The information that is presented on adoptions is miniscule and worst

case scenarios are presented as typical. A common fear amongst potential adoptive parents is that birthparents

will want their child back. Research has shown this is a rarity. The media tends to sensationalize worst

case scenarios, which contributes to the fears amongst potential adoptive parents (Fisher, 2003).



White babies are adopted with relative ease and almost never languish in the child welfare system (Fisher, 2003).

In the 1989 Rodriguez study of 13 adoption agencies in Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington D.

C., the average wait time for a healthy white infant was 18 days before it was adopted while the average wait

time for a 10 year old minority child with emotional problems was 20 months (Rodriguez, 1990).



Recently, child welfare agencies in Texas have been accused by civil rights groups of removing minority children

from their homes and placing them in non-family foster care to receive subsidies from the state. The state of

Texas receives additional funds from the federal government for "special needs" children in foster care. In

Texas, minority children adopted over the age of 2 are considered to have special needs. White children must be

over the age of 6 to be deemed as having special needs (Rooney, 2003). According to the Citizens Commission

on Human Rights, black children comprise 31 percent of adoptions in Texas but only represent 12 percent of

the population (Joyce, 2004). Nelson Linder, who is a spokesperson for the Austin chapter of the National

Association for the Advancement of Colored People stated, "This is nothing short of out-and-out

racism" (Guillermo, 2004).



As discouraging as it is to consider racism as the root of the problem, there are practical considerations that may

be addressed: the shortage of and barriers to willing minority parents (Roberts, 2002) and the strong social

disproval of transracial adoption by the NAACP and the Black Social Workers of America are factors that contribute

to the languishing of minority children in foster care (Simon & de Haymes, 2003).






There may be some home in shifting the basic attitudes toward adoption. A study by the Dave Thomas Foundation

for Adoption has found that 4 in 10 Americans have considered adopting at some point in their life.

Equally astounding is the fact that 65 percent of Americans have had experience with someone who is adopted

either through family or friends (2001). More than 125,000 children are available for adoption at any given

time (Blackstone & Hakim, 2003). If 4 in 10 adults were to adopt a child, it would equate to 81.5 million

adults adopting; children would exit the adoptive process as soon as they entered (Dave Thomas Foundation

for Adoption, 2002).



CONCLUSION


As the shift in funds has gone from in-home services to out-of-home services, the pendulum of child welfare

services has decisively swung from keeping families intact. As a result, the numbers of children in foster

care, especially those who are minorities, are painstakingly high. In order to swing the pendulum back to

preserving families, it is very important that more money is spent on in-home services. It is recommended that

more in-home services are offered to minority parents. The cash incentives offered by the federal government

for placing special needs children in foster and adoptive homes could be redirected to preservation services to

keep families intact. Funds can also be used towards aggressively recruiting minority foster and adoptive

families. The myths which many minority parents hold need to be addressed in recruiting efforts. Of course,

systemic racism is a social problem that children in foster care can't afford to wait for us to fix.



Ultimately, the future of those children in foster care hinges on the care and services they receive while in the

child welfare system. It is the responsibility of everyone involved in child welfare to create social change

that removes barriers to permanent placement and stable lives for children in the foster care system.






REFERENCES


1. AFCARS Report. 2001. AFCARS, alert: Revised foster care estimates. AFCARS. Retrieved June 7, 2004, from

http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cb/dis/afcars/cwstats.html

2. AFCARS Report. 2001. Preliminary estimates as of April 2001. AFCARS. Retrieved May 24, 2004, from

http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/afcars/apr2001.htm

3. Barth, R. (1997). Effects of age and race on the odds of adoption versus remaining in long-term out-of-home

care. Child Welfare 76(2).

4. Blackstone, E., and Simon, H. (2003). A market alternative to child adoption and foster care. Cato Journal 22(3).

5. Canedy, Dana. (2002, October 3). 2 charged with fraud in missing girl case. The New York Times, final edition.

6. Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (2002). National adoption attitudes survey. Retrieved from http://





www.davethomasfoundationforadoption.org/html/resource/Adoption_Attitudes_ES.pdf

7. Fisher, A. (2003). Still "Not quite as good as having your own?" Toward a sociology of adoption. Annual Review

of Sociology, 29(1): 335(27).

8. Freeman, M.(2003). Privatization of child protective services: Getting the lion back in the cage? Family Court

Review, 41, 449.

9. Guillermo, G. (2004, March 24). Foster care system is criticized as biased; Groups target state agency as unfair

to minority children. San-Antonio Express-News.

10. Hollingsworth, L. (1998). Promoting same-race adoption for children of color. Social Work. 43(2).

11. Johnson, P., Shireman, J., & Watson, K. (1987). Transracial adoption and the development of black identity at

age eight. Child Welfare, 66(45), 10.

12. Joyce, M. (2004, March 23). Groups claim discrimination in adoption process. BC Cycle.

13. National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (2003). How does the child welfare system work? Gateways

to Information: Protecting Children and Strengthening Families. Retrieved from http://nccanch.acf.hhs.gov

14. New York Times Company (2003, October 29). Cash incentives seen as risk to some children. The New York Times.

15. Office of HDS, Department of Health and Human Services. 2003. Code of Federal Regulations 4. Retrieved

from http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/get-cfr.cgi?TITLE= 45&PART= 1355&SECTION= 57&TYPE=TEXT

16. Orr, S., Conna C., Kulik, T. James, T. & Nielsen, S. (1998). Blueprint for the privatization of child welfare.

Reason Public Policy Institute, On-line: http://www.rppi.org/ps248.html

17. Roberts, D. (2002). Racial harm: Dorothy Roberts explains how racism works in the child welfare system. Color

Lines Magazine, 5(3): 19-21.

18. Rodriguez, P. (1990). Minority adoptions and agency practices. Social Work, 35(6), 528-531.

19. Rooney, P. (2004, January 16). Minority children over-represented in foster care. BC Cycle.

20. Simon, S., and de Haymes, M. (2003). Transracial adoption: families identify issues and needed support

services. Child Welfare, 82(2), 251-273.

21. Snell, L. (2000). Child-Welfare reform and the role of privatization. Reason Public Police Policy Institute.

Retrieved from http://www.rppi.org/ps271.html

22. Soper, K. (2004). Number of foster parents in region hits all-time low. Journal Inquirer (CT), May 19, 2004.

Retrieved from http://pewfostercare.org/press/files/JournalInquirer051904.pdf.

23. U.S. Bureau of the Census. 2002. Poverty 2002 tables. Retrieved from

http://www.census.gov/hhes/poverty/poverty02/pov2_and_3-yravgs.html

24. U.S. Bureau of the Census. 2001. Poverty in the United States. Report P-60, no. 219, Tables 1, A-2.

25. U.S. Department of Commerce. 2001. Profiles of general demographic statistics. 2000 Census of Population





and Housing. Retrieved from http://www2.census.gov/census_2000/

datasets/demographic_profile/0_United_States/2kh00.pdf

26. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2003. Child Maltreatment 2001. Washington D.C.:

Government Printing Office. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/cmreports.htm

27.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2003. The AFCARS report: Preliminary FY 2001 estimates as

of March 2003. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/dis/afcars/publications/afcars.htm

28. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2001. Administration for children and families. Retrieved from

http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/news/press/2001/adoption.html

29. Winters, R. (2002). Florida's little girl lost. Time, 159(19), 55.

30. Zahn, M. (2004, February 9). Pressure mounts to get neglected kids back home or adopted; failure to meet

federal timetable could cost the state $1.4 million. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


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Journal of Undergraduate Research Volume 6, Issue 7 May June 2005The Overrepresentation of Minorities in the Child Welfare SystemLance Carroll II ABSTRACTEach year thousands of children, victims of abuse and neglect, are removed from their homes and placed into state care through the foster care system. While many of these children are returned to their homes, many others languish in the foster care system until they simply become unadoptable. For minority children, the risk of remaining in foster care is even greater. This article reviews the research in an effort to better understand the overrepresentation of minorities in the child welfare system, and seeks to offer suggestions for reducing the number of minority children who are not adopted.INTRODUCTIONChild welfare services related to foster care are often described as a swinging pendulum. Swinging in one direction, child welfare agencies go to great efforts to keep families together, even in the face of abusive situations. In the other direction, these agencies view it as their duty and responsibility to remove children from their families when there is suspicion of abuse. In recent years, a few highly publicized horrific cases of child abuse have influenced policy makers to pressure child protective agencies to react quickly and decisively in removing at-risk children from their families. Such policies have a cyclical effect and put increased pressure on the foster care system. As more children are removed from abusive homes, the number of foster homes and families needed to shelter these at-risk children increases dramatically. The longer children remain in the foster care system, the less likely they are to return to their biological families, and the more likely their parents are to have their parental rights terminated (Roberts, 2002). This in turn makes more children available for adoption, creating a need for more adoptive homes, and because adoptive parents often come from the ranks of foster care, the net result is the reduction of available foster care homes. The Adoption and Safe Families Act, passed by the federal government in 1997, required states to have a permanency plan for children in foster care and to initiate steps to terminate parental rights (TPR) for those children who have been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months. The purpose of the act was to make children who are languishing in foster care available for adoption (Roberts, 2002). Other legislation has come about in direct response to specific, high profile cases. In 1998, Kayla McKean was beaten to death. Floridas child welfare agency, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), failed to remove Kayla from her home after several reports of child abuse (Freeman, 2003). The legislation which ensued was the 1999

PAGE 2

Kayla McKean Child Protection Act which mandated stricter guidelines in investigating child abuse reports (Winters, 2002). The act also requires law enforcement officials to review all child abuse reports; thus holding law enforcement accountable for the childs safety (Snell, 2000). Within months of the enactment, the number of children in Floridas foster care rose 38 percent (Winters, 2002). In the act to quickly remove children from their homes, child welfare agencies may place these children in less than idea circumstances. As long as children are removed from their dangerous living situations at home, it is assumed these children are going to a safer place. Yet in the years 2000 until 2002, more than 60 children have died while under Floridas state care and another 400 are missing (Winters, 2002). In April of 2002, Riyla Wilson, a Miami foster care child, was reported missing when case workers from DCF went to check up on her after her previous case worker resigned amidst allegations that she falsified checkups on foster care children under her care. According to DCF records, Riylas caretaker, Geralyn Graham, was the girls grandmother (Winters, 2002). Graham claims that people posing as case workers from DCF took Riyla away from her in January of 2001. She did not file a missing persons report but continued to receive subsidies worth $14,257 from the state for being Riylas foster care parent (Canedy, 2002). Despite Grahams criminal record which included grand theft, fraud, her use of 20 different aliases, and the fact that she had a medical diagnosis of psychotic syndrome, the state allowed her to be Riylas foster care parent (Winters, 2002). Welfare agencies are not just making mistakes in Florida. States are under such intense pressure to find permanent homes for children in the foster care system that they often offer cash incentives and other benefits for parents who are willing to adopt. In 2003, Raymond and Vanessa Jackson were under evaluation by the state of New Jersey for the adoption of a seventh child when it was discovered they were starving four of their adopted boys on a diet of peanut butter and plaster wallboard. The Jacksons, who had six adopted children in custody and one foster child, received more than $30,000 from the state of New Jersey in 2002 (New York Times Company, 2003). Despite these instances of further abuse when children are removed from the home, the number of children in foster care continues to climb. At any given time, it is estimated that approximately 581,000 children are in foster care and of these, 125,000 are available for adoption (Blackstone & Hakim, 2003). Of these children in foster care, approximately two-thirds are of African-American or Hispanic descent 42 percent are AfricanAmerican (Simon & Vidal, 2003), while only comprising 12.3 percent of the national population (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2001), and 15 percent are Hispanic (Simon & Vidal, 2003), while comprising 12.5 percent of the national population (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2001). In Chicago, 95 percent of the children in the child welfare system are minorities, and in 1997 it was found that 90 percent, or 40,700 of 43,300 children in New York Citys child welfare system were minorities (Roberts, 2002). Very few minority parents are willing to adopt the widely overrepresented minority children in foster care. Those who are willing face many barriers due to agency practices and unwritten policies (Roberts, 2002). Parents

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from other ethnicities who are willing to adopt transracially must face resistance from the NAACP and the National Association of Black Social Workers (Simon & Vidal, 2003). The lens through which adoption is viewed by the public is a final factor as to why minority children continue to be overrepresented in the system. This article reviews the research on the underlying issues and reasons for the overrepresentation of minorities in the child welfare system. A brief overview of the foster care process will be explained in order to gain an understanding of these issues. In addition, recommendations will be offered to fix a broken and overburdened child welfare system that is in desperate need of repair. Overview of the Foster Care Process According to Federal law, child maltreatment is defined as, serious harm to children which includes emotional abuse, physical abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse caused by parents, extended family, or primary caregivers (National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, 2003). Though anyone can report suspected child maltreatment, most reports are made by those required by State law to report child maltreatment. These include child protection investigators, law enforcement officials, and child welfare workers. In 18 states, the law requires everyone to report suspected child maltreatment. In 2001, 2.7 million suspected cases of child maltreatment, involving 5 million children, were reported to child protective service (CPS) agencies. Once a report is made, the case is either screened in or screened out. A case is screened out if there is not enough evidence to investigate a case of child maltreatment or the alleged report does not meet a states definition of child maltreatment. Of the 2.7 million reports in 2001, 1.8 million were screened in, while 870,000 were screened out (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). Once the report is screened in, a child protective service investigator will investigate the suspected child maltreatment. By the end of the investigation, the investigator will determine whether the child maltreatment is substantiated or unsubstantiated. The report of child maltreatment can be unsubstantiated if there is either not enough evidence to conclude that child abuse or neglect occurred or that what happened to the child does not meet the states definition of maltreatment (National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, 2003). In 2001, 903,000 children were found to be victims of child maltreatment (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). Depending upon the severity of the maltreatment, the child may be removed from the home and placed into the child welfare system. Whether or not the child is removed from the home, the family may receive in-home services to prevent further abuse. The Demographics of Maltreatment and Foster Care In case studies of child maltreatment, the perpetrator is often living at or below the poverty line (National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, 2004). In 2001, 11.7 million children were poor, which is 16.7 percent of the poor population. Of these 11.7 million children, two-thirds are minorities, the exact ratio of minorities in the

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child welfare system (US Bureau of the Census, 2001). Poverty, however, is not the sole factor as to why minorities are being removed from the home. Racial stereotypes play a large factor in removing minority children from the home. According to a study by Roberts, black families are seen as being less willing to cooperate with in-home services and less able to reform than white parents. As a result, child welfare policy has shifted in the past two decades from spending less money on in-home services and more money on out-of-home services. Once minority children are removed from the home, they are less likely than white children to return home (2002). In 2001, approximately 275,000 children were removed from their homes as a result of child maltreatment (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 45, Volume 4, Part 1355, Section 57, foster care is defined as, 24-hour substitute care for children outside their own homes. The reporting system includes all children who have or had been in foster care at least 24 hours. The foster care settings include, but are not limited to family foster homes, relative foster homes, group homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, childcare institutions, and pre-adoptive homes (Office of HDS, Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). Prior to 1996, there were no time limits established on the length of time children remained in foster care waiting for their parents to gain the right to regain legal custody of their children. In 1996, Michigan passed legislation which imposed a time limit of one year from the time children first entered foster care to the time they were put up for adoption (Orr, Conna, Kulik, et al, 1998). The year after Michigans legislation, Congress passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act (Roberts, 2002). As a result of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, foster care adoptions increased 78 percent from 1996 to 2000 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001). However, a vast number of children are still languishing in foster care. In 1996, approximately 520,000 children were in foster care. 11 percent of these children had been in foster care for 3 to 4 years, and 10 percent had been in foster care for 5 years or longer (Snell, 2000). In 2001, there were 542,000 children in foster care. 11 percent had been in foster care for 3 to 4 years and 9 percent had been in foster care for 5 years or longer (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). According to research by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Report System (AFCARS), when a child in foster care reaches the age of 8 or 9, their likelihood of remaining in foster care becomes greater than their likelihood of being adopted (2001). Foster Care Challenges, Barriers to Adoption, and Minority Overrepresentation Reviews of state programs paint a dismal picture of the foster care situation across the country. In January 2004, a federal review revealed that Wisconsin was the 43rd state to fail in a review of its foster care system. If the foster care system is not corrected within two years, Wisconsin could incur $1.4 million in federal fines. The current federal law requires that foster care children be made available for adoption or returned home within 15 months. This timeline must be met in 100 percent of the cases if Wisconsin does not want to incur any

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fines (Zhan, 2004). The risk of returning children home to dangerous living conditions or unsafe foster homes increases due to the time pressures to remove children from foster care faced by Wisconsin and other states. Throughout the country, child welfare workers are overworked, underpaid, and unsupported. Permanency plans for children in foster care depends a large part on the effort of social workers. Critics argue minority children do not receive as much care or attention as white children in the development of permanency plans. The quality and quantity of social workers are two very important factors in seeing children move swiftly through the system. Sadly, both of these characteristics are lacking in child welfare agencies across the nation (Zahn, 2004). From Idaho, with the lowest foster care population of 1,817 to California, with the most children in foster care with a population of 107,168 (Soper, 2004), there is a severe shortage of minority foster parents willing to foster or adopt (Zahn, 2004). This leaves the burden of adopting minority children to white foster parents. However, a number of organizations and authors have taken strong stances against interracial adoption. In its 1972 resolution, the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) adopted a formal position against placing African-American children in white families: Only a black family can transmit the emotional and sensitive subtleties of perceptions and reactions essential for a black childs survival in a racist society (Simon & Vidal, 2003; Hollingsworth, 1998). A study by Johnson, Shireman, and Watson (1987) has shown that matching ethnicity in placing foster children in adoptive homes helps the child identify with his or her race, boosts self-esteem, and allows him or her to better cope with living in a racist society. However, the study did find that children of color in white families do just as well as white adoptive children in white families. Of the families studied in the research, 75 percent of the white families who adopted African-American children sent their children to predominantly white schools and these children did just as well as their white counterparts (1987). In 1998, The Child Welfare League of Americas National Council of Latino Executives voiced opposition to MEPA and also adopted a formal position against transracial adoption, arguing that the challenges of parenting minority children can best be met by promoting same race adoptions. Furthermore, the council stated that the overrepresentation of minorities in the child welfare system is due to higher rates of removal and longer stays by black children in foster care (Simon & de Haymes, 2003). Statistically, 4 out of 5 Americans are more likely to adopt a child of the same race. In addition, whites are more likely than African-Americans or Hispanics to believe that children adopted out of foster will have behavioral problems (Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 2002). Nevertheless, due to the lack of available minority adoptive parents, legislatures have tried to take action; the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) and the Interethnic Adoption Provisions (IEP) are two pieces of legislation intended to eliminate barriers from parents wanting to adopt transracially. The shortage of minority foster parents can also be attributed to barriers they face in the actual adoption process. Adoption fees are one such barrier for potential minority parents. These fees are essentially seen as the buying and selling of babies. The black community, who may already be at a lower socioeconomic status

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when compared to the white community as a whole, especially looks down upon this practice of setting adoption fees (Rodriguez, 1990). Agency practices have also contributed to the overrepresentation of minorities in the child welfare system. In a 1989 study that scrutinized agency practices across 13 public and private adoption agencies in Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington D.C., it was found that private agencies preferred couples who came through their doors (Rodriguez, 1990). In addition, although agency policies have no formal regulations on income requirements, one-third of the agencies did not accept applicants who were current welfare recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). In the late 1990s AFDC was reformed and is now known as Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF). Finally, lack of knowledge is also another barrier to adoption. For example, sixty-three percent of families surveyed in the study had no knowledge of the subsidies that would be available to them if they decided to adopt (Rodriguez, 1990). Research has found that in 21 sociology college textbooks and 16 readers published between 1998 and 2001, there is very little information on adoption. The information that is presented on adoptions is miniscule and worst case scenarios are presented as typical. A common fear amongst potential adoptive parents is that birthparents will want their child back. Research has shown this is a rarity. The media tends to sensationalize worst case scenarios, which contributes to the fears amongst potential adoptive parents (Fisher, 2003). White babies are adopted with relative ease and almost never languish in the child welfare system (Fisher, 2003). In the 1989 Rodriguez study of 13 adoption agencies in Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington D. C., the average wait time for a healthy white infant was 18 days before it was adopted while the average wait time for a 10 year old minority child with emotional problems was 20 months (Rodriguez, 1990). Recently, child welfare agencies in Texas have been accused by civil rights groups of removing minority children from their homes and placing them in non-family foster care to receive subsidies from the state. The state of Texas receives additional funds from the federal government for special needs children in foster care. In Texas, minority children adopted over the age of 2 are considered to have special needs. White children must be over the age of 6 to be deemed as having special needs (Rooney, 2003). According to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, black children comprise 31 percent of adoptions in Texas but only represent 12 percent of the population (Joyce, 2004). Nelson Linder, who is a spokesperson for the Austin chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People stated, This is nothing short of out-and-out racism (Guillermo, 2004). As discouraging as it is to consider racism as the root of the problem, there are practical considerations that may be addressed: the shortage of and barriers to willing minority parents (Roberts, 2002) and the strong social disproval of transracial adoption by the NAACP and the Black Social Workers of America are factors that contribute to the languishing of minority children in foster care (Simon & de Haymes, 2003).

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There may be some home in shifting the basic attitudes toward adoption. A study by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has found that 4 in 10 Americans have considered adopting at some point in their life. Equally astounding is the fact that 65 percent of Americans have had experience with someone who is adopted either through family or friends (2001). More than 125,000 children are available for adoption at any given time (Blackstone & Hakim, 2003). If 4 in 10 adults were to adopt a child, it would equate to 81.5 million adults adopting; children would exit the adoptive process as soon as they entered (Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 2002). CONCLUSIONAs the shift in funds has gone from in-home services to out-of-home services, the pendulum of child welfare services has decisively swung from keeping families intact. As a result, the numbers of children in foster care, especially those who are minorities, are painstakingly high. In order to swing the pendulum back to preserving families, it is very important that more money is spent on in-home services. It is recommended that more in-home services are offered to minority parents. The cash incentives offered by the federal government for placing special needs children in foster and adoptive homes could be redirected to preservation services to keep families intact. Funds can also be used towards aggressively recruiting minority foster and adoptive families. The myths which many minority parents hold need to be addressed in recruiting efforts. Of course, systemic racism is a social problem that children in foster care cant afford to wait for us to fix. Ultimately, the future of those children in foster care hinges on the care and services they receive while in the child welfare system. It is the responsibility of everyone involved in child welfare to create social change that removes barriers to permanent placement and stable lives for children in the foster care system. REFERENCES1. AFCARS Report. 2001. AFCARS, alert: Revised foster care estimates. AFCARS. Retrieved June 7, 2004, from http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cb/dis/afcars/cwstats.html 2. AFCARS Report. 2001. Preliminary estimates as of April 2001. AFCARS. Retrieved May 24, 2004, from http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/afcars/apr2001.htm 3. Barth, R. (1997). Effects of age and race on the odds of adoption versus remaining in long-term out-of-home care. Child Welfare 76(2). 4. Blackstone, E., and Simon, H. (2003). A market alternative to child adoption and foster care. Cato Journal 22(3). 5. Canedy, Dana. (2002, October 3). 2 charged with fraud in missing girl case. The New York Times, final edition. 6. Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (2002). National adoption attitudes survey. Retrieved from http://

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www.davethomasfoundationforadoption.org/html/resource/Adoption_Attitudes_ES.pdf 7. Fisher, A. (2003). Still Not quite as good as having your own? Toward a sociology of adoption. Annual Review of Sociology, 29(1): 335(27). 8. Freeman, M.(2003). Privatization of child protective services: Getting the lion back in the cage? Family Court Review, 41, 449. 9. Guillermo, G. (2004, March 24). Foster care system is criticized as biased; Groups target state agency as unfair to minority children. San-Antonio Express-News. 10. Hollingsworth, L. (1998). Promoting same-race adoption for children of color. Social Work. 43(2). 11. Johnson, P., Shireman, J., & Watson, K. (1987). Transracial adoption and the development of black identity at age eight. Child Welfare, 66(45), 10. 12. Joyce, M. (2004, March 23). Groups claim discrimination in adoption process. BC Cycle. 13. National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (2003). How does the child welfare system work? Gateways to Information: Protecting Children and Strengthening Families. Retrieved from http://nccanch.acf.hhs.gov 14. New York Times Company (2003, October 29). Cash incentives seen as risk to some children. The New York Times. 15. Office of HDS, Department of Health and Human Services. 2003. Code of Federal Regulations 4. Retrieved from http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/get-cfr.cgi?TITLE=45&PART=1355&SECTION=57&TYPE=TEXT 16. Orr, S., Conna C., Kulik, T. James, T. & Nielsen, S. (1998). Blueprint for the privatization of child welfare. Reason Public Policy Institute, On-line: http://www.rppi.org/ps248.html 17. Roberts, D. (2002). Racial harm: Dorothy Roberts explains how racism works in the child welfare system. Color Lines Magazine, 5(3): 19-21. 18. Rodriguez, P. (1990). Minority adoptions and agency practices. Social Work, 35(6), 528-531. 19. Rooney, P. (2004, January 16). Minority children over-represented in foster care. BC Cycle. 20. Simon, S., and de Haymes, M. (2003). Transracial adoption: families identify issues and needed support services. Child Welfare, 82(2), 251-273. 21. Snell, L. (2000). Child-Welfare reform and the role of privatization. Reason Public Police Policy Institute. Retrieved from http://www.rppi.org/ps271.html 22. Soper, K. (2004). Number of foster parents in region hits all-time low. Journal Inquirer (CT), May 19, 2004. Retrieved from http://pewfostercare.org/press/files/JournalInquirer051904.pdf. 23. U.S. Bureau of the Census. 2002. Poverty 2002 tables. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/hhes/poverty/poverty02/pov2_and_3-yr_avgs.html 24. U.S. Bureau of the Census. 2001. Poverty in the United States. Report P-60, no. 219, Tables 1, A-2. 25. U.S. Department of Commerce. 2001. Profiles of general demographic statistics. 2000 Census of Population

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and Housing. Retrieved from http://www2.census.gov/census_2000/ datasets/demographic_profile/0_United_States/2kh00.pdf 26. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2003. Child Maltreatment 2001. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/cmreports.htm 27. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2003. The AFCARS report: Preliminary FY 2001 estimates as of March 2003. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/dis/afcars/publications/afcars.htm 28. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2001. Administration for children and families. Retrieved from http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/news/press/2001/adoption.html 29. Winters, R. (2002). Floridas little girl lost. Time, 159(19), 55. 30. Zahn, M. (2004, February 9). Pressure mounts to get neglected kids back home or adopted; failure to meet federal timetable could cost the state $1.4 million. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel --top-Back to the Journal of Undergraduate Research College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | University Scholars Program | University of Florida | University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611; (352) 846-2032.