Although there is little difference, according to racial group, in the incidence of abuse and neglect that would lead to a child or youth’s placement in foster care, black children are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system.
Based on figures from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS), black children make up 32% of those in foster care, as compared with 15% of the general population of U.S. children. AFCARS, which provides data as of fiscal year 2005, is a report compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families. It examines public adoptions only.
Ralph Bayard, senior director for systems improvement and disproportionality at Casey Family Programs, says the reasons black children are overrepresented are numerous. “Black children are more likely to be raised in single-parent households and black communities often don’t have the resources to support poor families. The consequence is that children are exposed to abuse and neglect. Yet this is no less true for white families. Here is where racism comes in-situations among black families are more reported, substantiated, and investigated, and black children are removed and placed at higher rates. The circumstances of poverty bring them more attention,” Bayard says.
Additionally, African Americans stay in the system longer and make up a large portion of the youths that age out of the system at 18 years old without the support services they still need. According to the report, older youths are often left vulnerable to early parenthood (84%), unemployment (51%), and homelessness (25%) among other things. Tony Shellman, a national spokesman for National Foster Care Month, was an adoptee. During the month of May, the co-founder of clothing lines Mecca, Enyce, and Parish Clothing Co., urges people to adopt a child. “And if you can’t adopt, then become a mentor to a foster child, or invite a foster child to be an intern at your company, or donate five minutes to call and check on a foster child everyday. Become a part of the solution,” Shellman says. “These are kids that have no support staff-no mom, dad, brother, or sister. Without this support, we’re not building strong soldiers.”
For more information, visit www.fostercaremonth.org or call