December 01, 2015

Improving Responses to Children and Families of Color

Claire Chiamulera

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

A new report from the Center for Social Policy shares policy strategies to improve outcomes for children and families of color in the child welfare system. The strategies focus on four areas: 

  • Data collection/analysis—Capturing quality data on how children and families of color experience the child welfare system helps jurisdictions assess the extent and dimension of the issue; identify forces contributing to disproportionality and differential treatment; and assess the impact of reforms. 

  • Family services and resources— State legislation and policies can ensure families of color have access to services and resources to help them protect and care for their children. Policies must address underlying systemic issues, such as poverty, and encourage broader array of services and resources.

  • Policy implementation—States have broad discretion in implementing federal child welfare policies, giving them opportunities to tailor child welfare systems to meet the needs of children and families of color. Ensuring policy implementation around family well-being should support needs of families of color.

  • Safeguarding American Indian and Alaskan Native children through partnerships with tribes—States can support keeping American Indian and Alaskan Native families together through several policy efforts. These include uniformly applying the Indian Child Welfare Act, partnering with state tribes to support tribal sovereignty, and providing appropriate care to American Indian and Alaskan Native in the child welfare system.

Included with the strategies are examples of successful state efforts. These are perhaps the most useful part of the report as they offer concrete, real-world examples showing how states are carrying out aspects of the strategies. A State Policy Table organizes state legislative reforms by topic across the four areas.

The report also distills current research on racial disproportionality and disparities in child welfare and highlights research trends. Funding strategies to sustain state policies by maximizing federal and state resources and using public-private partnerships are also addressed. 

  —Claire Chiamulera, CLP Editor