CHICAGO, March 17, 2023 — The American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law is leading a new initiative to address overreporting by medical professionals of Black and Indigenous children to the child welfare system. A March 21 kickoff meeting will bring together an interdisciplinary group of national experts to launch the initiative’s work.
“This initiative’s potentially transformative work reflects the need for interdisciplinary approaches to complex problems that unnecessarily entangle families in the court system,” said ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross.
When children are brought to a doctor or emergency room for childhood medical care, the current system of mandated reporting raises the risk that Black and Indigenous parents will be overreported to child welfare agencies for suspected abuse and neglect. Research shows:
- By the age of 18, over 50% of Black and Indigenous children will be the subject of a Child Protective Services investigation.
- Injuries experienced by Black children are nine times more likely to be reported to CPS as potential child abuse than injuries experienced by white children despite evidence showing child abuse and neglect occur at equal rates across races.
- Race-based reports lead to a disproportionate number of Black and Indigenous children entering foster care.
- Race-based overreporting by health care professionals results in distrust of the medical profession and failure to seek needed care.
With funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the initiative aims to mitigate bias and racism in overreporting by health care professionals through a layered, multisystem intervention. The proposed intervention will include: 1) a medical standard of care supplement addressing bias and racism; 2)medical school strategies addressing bias and racism; and 3) tools to lessen the imbalance of power between medical, child welfare and judicial professionals when questioning biased reporting.
The kickoff meeting will convene the initiative’s National Advisory Board for the first time. The board will be critical in shaping the development and implementation of the proposed interventions. Members of the board include legal, health care, child welfare, public health and medical school leaders as well as experts in race equity, evaluation, lived experience and authentic community engagement. See the initiative’s website for a complete list of board members and their backgrounds.