Title

“In the Child's Best Interests": Pathologized Notions of Black Parenting and the Over- representation of African American Youth in Foster Care

Format

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Artist Statement

Studies show that African Americans are placed in foster care at a significantly higher rate than children of other backgrounds. African American children are placed in out-of-home care at six times their ratio in the general population, and are twelve times more likely than their white counterparts to be placed in such care. Contemporary scholarship on overrepresentation of African Americans in the child welfare system has been divided on how to interpret this well known and tragic phenomenon. Some scholars have claimed that higher rates of foster care placement for African American youth accurately reflect the incidence of child maltreatment in the African American community. Studies testing this claim, however, strongly suggest that race is the controlling factor in predicting foster care placement for African Americans, as opposed to parental behavior or socioeconomic factors. Analysis of foster care placement decisions over the past two decades has turned to the question of why race is such a definitive predictor of removal from the family home into the child welfare system for African American children. The present study asks what impact notions of the African American family have on foster care placement decisions. In this survey article, I attempt to describe the sociocultural context for caseworker decisions about whether or not to remove African American youth from their biological families. Studies that have demonstrated “low interrater reliability” in caseworker judgments about which youth are at risk suggest that factors other than severity of abuse and neglect play a role in the overrepresentation of African American youth in foster care. Omni and Winant’s theories of racial formation are crucial to my analysis of the link I posit between historically negative views of the African American family and parenting, and the tendency of social workers to view removal of the African American child from his or her family as in the best interests of the child. This study promises to contribute to the literature investigating the differential treatment of various races in the child welfare system.

Location

University of the Pacific, Classroom Building

Start Date

5-5-2007 9:00 AM

End Date

5-5-2007 12:30 PM

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May 5th, 9:00 AM May 5th, 12:30 PM

“In the Child's Best Interests": Pathologized Notions of Black Parenting and the Over- representation of African American Youth in Foster Care

University of the Pacific, Classroom Building

Studies show that African Americans are placed in foster care at a significantly higher rate than children of other backgrounds. African American children are placed in out-of-home care at six times their ratio in the general population, and are twelve times more likely than their white counterparts to be placed in such care. Contemporary scholarship on overrepresentation of African Americans in the child welfare system has been divided on how to interpret this well known and tragic phenomenon. Some scholars have claimed that higher rates of foster care placement for African American youth accurately reflect the incidence of child maltreatment in the African American community. Studies testing this claim, however, strongly suggest that race is the controlling factor in predicting foster care placement for African Americans, as opposed to parental behavior or socioeconomic factors. Analysis of foster care placement decisions over the past two decades has turned to the question of why race is such a definitive predictor of removal from the family home into the child welfare system for African American children. The present study asks what impact notions of the African American family have on foster care placement decisions. In this survey article, I attempt to describe the sociocultural context for caseworker decisions about whether or not to remove African American youth from their biological families. Studies that have demonstrated “low interrater reliability” in caseworker judgments about which youth are at risk suggest that factors other than severity of abuse and neglect play a role in the overrepresentation of African American youth in foster care. Omni and Winant’s theories of racial formation are crucial to my analysis of the link I posit between historically negative views of the African American family and parenting, and the tendency of social workers to view removal of the African American child from his or her family as in the best interests of the child. This study promises to contribute to the literature investigating the differential treatment of various races in the child welfare system.