How are caseworkers and social workers experiencing and working to better understand racial bias and disparities in child welfare? What are families and recipients of services saying? How can we all support critical services such as child protection while sharing in the effort to shape healthier communities? Now is the time to seek a deeper knowledge of what is and has been happening and why. We’ve been compiling research and resources to gain a shared understanding to work from.
“Those of us who were drawn to the child welfare system to protect children need to set aside our intentions and beliefs and look fully at the impact of racism on the children and families that we are serving. … If our intent is truly to serve and protect children, then we must unflinchingly examine the harm that the system causes and change it.”
– Cathy Krebs, director of the American Bar Association’s Children’s Rights Litigation Committee in The Imprint’s “It's Not Enough to Mean Well”
Like many others in child welfare (and across the entire human services spectrum), I’ve been dedicating a lot of time lately toward reading, researching, and having conversations with colleagues about racial bias and disproportionality in the system.
There’s no denying that a problem exists and now is the time for change. As a result, many technology providers, industry leaders, policymakers, and decision-makers are inclined to jump straight into action. However, I firmly believe we need to fully understand and appreciate what is and has been happening and why before we can try to apply new technology, processes, or policy to solve it.
Now is the time for all of us to simply listen. How are caseworkers and social workers experiencing and explaining these disparities? What are families and recipients of services saying? What about former staff who have left the field out of a desire to not contribute to the harm it is causing?
This isn’t a policy thing. This isn’t a procedure thing. It’s a people thing.
To that end, we’ve been compiling some resources to educate ourselves and our teams. We’re sharing a few here for anyone looking to do the same in hopes that together, we can shape healthier, more equitable communities. (PS: I am always looking to learn and experience more. If you have additional resources, I’d enjoy receiving your recommendations.)
- The Moment is Now [Children’s Bureau Express]—CBX published a special edition that shares various perspectives and challenges all sectors and organizations to embark on a mission to enable families of all backgrounds, incomes, races, and creeds to achieve their full potential.
- Racial Disproportionality and Disparity in Child Welfare [Child Welfare Information Gateway]—Issue brief exploring the prevalence of racial disproportionality and disparity in child welfare and describing strategies to assist leaders tasked with addressing these issues in general and at specific decision points in the process.
- White Privilege in Child Welfare: What Racism Looks Like [The Imprint]—This column provides actionable suggestions to deconstruct child welfare to remove any indication of racism from vulnerable children’s lives.
- Moving Forward Together [Center for the Study of Social Policy]—CSSP published this narrative that explores lessons learned throughout their ongoing journey toward becoming an anti-racist, equity-centered organization. (CSSP has also published a glossary of key equity terms and concepts that’s worth referencing.)
- Race Equity Crosswalk Tool [Annie E. Casey Foundation]—A grid designed to bring attention to blind spots that may be keeping child welfare leaders from truly seeing the root causes of racial and/or ethnic disparities, paired with an action plan to guide the development and implementation of robust strategies to close equity gaps.
- Addressing Bias in Delinquency and Child Welfare Systems [National Juvenile Defender Center]—Offers key considerations and questions to reform policies and practices that drive bias, structural racism, and the over-representation of children and families of color in juvenile and family courts.
- Promoting Racial Equity Through Workforce and Organizational Actions [NCWWI]—Infographic summarizing key points about racial equity in child welfare and providing strategies to help organizations work toward it. (Pro tip: NCWWI curates all of their racial equity resources here—including tools, guides, assessments, and more. They also have a helpful Racial Equity Discussion Guide to bookmark.)
- Reducing Racial Disparity and Disproportionality in Child Welfare: Programs [The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse]—Highlights specific programs, such as Family Group Decision Making or Structured Decision Making, that work to reduce disparity at various stages in the child welfare system.
- Barriers to Social Services Fuel Racial Inequity [Government Technology]—Calls for systemic change and explores the role technology plays in impeding or improving these efforts.
- 5 Questions That Incorporate Racial Equity into Public Policy [GovLoop]—Contributed article posing key questions that decision-makers should consider to ensure policies can be equitably enforced based on how specific minority groups and populations will be affected.