When many individuals think of foster care, they think of the various social service programs that assist with temporarily placing children in the care of a foster parent or relative. The reasons for such temporary placements are investigated by the social program agency before such placements occur. However, one might be surprised when looking into the demographics as to who is placed into foster care. Across the nation, there is much evidence of racial disparities with the placement of children into the foster care systems. Sara Tiano’s article published in the L.A. Progressive indicated that “Nearly a quarter of all kids in foster care in Los Angeles County are Black, according to county statistics, though they comprise less than 8% of the county’s youth population. Nearly three-quarters of all children taken into foster care in 2020 were either Black or Latino.”
Several credible sources have indicated that there are a variety of reasons as to why children from communities of color are disproportionately placed in the foster care system, which include individual implicit racial bias. Bailey Maryfield, M.S. of the Justice Research and Statistics Association indicated that “Implicit biases are associations made by individuals in the unconscious state of mind. This means that the individual is likely not aware of the biased association. Implicit racial bias can cause individuals to unknowingly act in discriminatory ways…their perceptions have been shaped by experiences and these perceptions potentially result in biased thoughts or actions.”
In a different turn of events, Nassau County, New York, foster care social workers recently completed a five-year “blind removal” program where the social workers who were in charge of placing children in foster care did not know their race, neighborhood and other identifying factors. The results of the program were astonishing since racial disproportionate placements decreased significantly.
This year, due to the success of the Nassau County “blind removal” program, Los Angeles County, in collaboration with UCLA’s Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families, will test a blind removal program with an L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services office.
We can assist with changing the racial disproportionate placements within foster care systems by doing any or all of the following:
- Ask government agencies who oversee foster care systems to please consider policies that stop racial disproportionate foster care placements through various tools which can include further study and implementation of “blind removal” programs;
- Correspond with local social workers as well as your local, state, or national political officials to see what policies address and mitigate racial disparities in connection with foster care; and
- Ask government agencies who oversee foster care systems to consider annual seminars and webinars regarding causes and remedies for individual implicit racial bias.
Through such actions, we can help ensure that racial inequities within foster care systems are remedied and, hopefully one day, become a chapter of the past.
Bobby T. Rimas
Adjunct Professor of Legal Studies