February marks Black History Month, a celebration of the contributions African Americans and Black Americans have made to American history. As we reflect on the struggles for freedom and equality that the Black community continues to endure, we remain committed to bringing awareness to how child abuse and neglect impacts black children.
Children growing up in black families continue to face a mountain of inequalities, including the child welfare system. The 2020 Kids Count Data Book notes that racial inequities remain deep in the child welfare system. As a nation, the report notes, we have failed to provide African American children and families with the support necessary to thrive, and states have not gotten rid of barriers facing all children of color. Even when risk factors are the same, white families are more likely to receive family and home support, whereas Black families are more likely to have their children removed.
Nationwide, the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities found evidence that caseworkers’ implicit bias, unconscious bias, and racism do exist in the child welfare system. The Commission stated, “The research on child welfare involvement broken down by race indicates that African American children are more likely than white children to be reported to child protective services (CPS) as possible victims of abuse or neglect, more likely to be investigated, and more likely to be removed from their families and placed in foster care. African American families are also less likely to receive in-home services or to be reunified than are white families.”
What can we do to tackle these issues while supporting the Black family? Significant changes need to be made in the current system to address bias and racism so that ALL children and families receive equitable treatment.
Here in Pennsylvania, Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller says change is underway and promises a continual, intentional focus after a recent report on Racial Equity in Pennsylvania revealed systemic racism in the child welfare system. Acknowledging the issue and making intentional changes are steps in the right direction. This work will take years to undo systemic racism at all levels within the child welfare system.
Each of us bear the responsibility to support our children and prevent further marginalization and inequities within the child welfare system. We know that every child deserves to be valued, treated equal, and grow up in an environment that is free from abuse and neglect!