Addressing Racial Disparities in the Child Welfare System

Addressing Racial Disparities in the Child Welfare System August 2008

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges Congress to change laws, including amendment of Titles IV-E and IV-B of the Social Security Act, to broaden federal review of the disproportionate representation of racial and ethnic minority children in the child welfare system and require and fund states to track, report, analyze, and take and report on corrective action.

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the American Bar Association urges state, local, territorial and tribal child welfare agencies, dependency courts and judges, and children’s and parents’ advocates to help racial and ethnic minority families readily access needed services and to help ensure that removal of children from their homes is based on objective child safety criteria so that all families in the child welfare system are treated fairly and equitably.

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the American Bar Association urges state, local, territorial and tribal child welfare agencies, dependency courts and judges, government, parents’ and children’s attorneys, guardians ad litem and court-appointed special advocates to receive training on cultural competencies, institutional and unconscious biases, and avoidance of disparate treatment of racial and ethnic minority children and families and to develop and promote practices that encourage recruitment and retention of racially and ethnically diverse judges, attorneys, social workers and other staff, volunteers and foster parents.

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the American Bar Association urges federal, state, local, territorial and tribal governments to enact law and policy changes that will help decrease disproportionate representation of racial and ethnic minority children in the child welfare system by offering additional support to relative caregivers, including (a) providing partial federal reimbursement for state costs of subsidized permanent guardianships; (b) providing relative caregivers with financial assistance and support no less than that given to non-relative caretakers; (c) supporting housing assistance for relative caregivers, including changing policies to ensure that kinship support or guardianship payments are not considered income for Section 8 Housing Assistance purposes; and (d) giving states flexibility in establishing separate approval or licensing standards for kinship placements, while still addressing key placement safety factors.

These represent only those ABA Policy Resolutions in which the Commission on Youth at Risk was the principal sponsor.

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