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The Causes and Consequences of Racial Disproportionality and Disparities

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Part of the Child Maltreatment book series (MALT,volume 14)

Abstract

The overrepresentation of children of color in the child welfare system has long been identified as a problem in the child welfare system. Commonly referred to as racial disproportionality, this phenomenon has most significantly affected Black children, who are represented in foster care at a rate nearly double their proportion of the general child population. This disproportionate involvement results in disproportionate harm due to the adverse consequences associated with involuntary family separation and placement in foster care. This chapter reviews the factors that contribute to the overrepresentation of Black children in the child welfare system, and the consequences that result from the continued inability of the child welfare system to substantively address this problem.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Indigenous children are overrepresented among children in foster care at the national level, as they comprise 2% of children in foster care although they represent only 1% of the general child population. Latinx children are underrepresented at the national level, although overrepresentation exists in certain states. As the body of research on racial disproportionality has focused primarily on Black children, this chapter addresses racial disproportionality and disparities among this population. Additional content on racial disparities impacting Indigenous, Latinx, and other underrepresented populations can be found in Dettlaff, A. J. (Ed.). (2021). Racial disproportionality and disparities in the child welfare system.

  2. 2.

    The disproportionality ratio is calculated by dividing the percentage of children in foster care for a given year from one racial group by the percentage of children in the child population (under 18) from the same racial group in the same year. See Rolock et al. (2021) for additional information on measurement issues in identifying and describing racial disproportionality and disparities.

  3. 3.

    Chapters dedicated to each of these four categories of contributing factors can be found in Dettlaff, A. J. (Ed.). (2021). Racial disproportionality and disparities in the child welfare system.

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Dettlaff, A.J., Boyd, R. (2022). The Causes and Consequences of Racial Disproportionality and Disparities. In: Krugman, R.D., Korbin, J.E. (eds) Handbook of Child Maltreatment. Child Maltreatment, vol 14. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-82479-2_10

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