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October 20, 2016 Practice Points

How to Address the Overrepresentation of Families of Color in the Child Welfare System

By Cathy Krebs

On October 19, 2016, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services issued technical assistance for child welfare systems under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) and its implementing regulations. The guidance is intended to ensure that child welfare courts and agencies are complying with federal civil rights laws. The numbers clearly indicate that certain groups are overrepresented in the child welfare system. In addition, the departments have received a number of complaints alleging bias in the removal of children from their families, in the offering of services to parents and the denial of relative placements. The guidance begins to address this bias and importantly, the guidance encourages conversation around how child welfare laws, policies and practices may disproportionality impact families and communities of color whether implicitly or explicitly. 

If anyone is aware of bias within his or her system, a Title VI complaint can be filed with DOJ. The guidance invites individuals who believe they have been aggrieved under Title VI to file complaints at the earliest opportunity.

Cathy Krebs is the committee manager for the ABA Section of Litigation's Children's Rights Litigation Committee in Washington, D.C. She is also the newsletter editor for the committee.

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