By Julia Lurie, Mother Jones, April 26, 2021
For decades, researchers have pointed out that the child welfare system is riddled with inequities. Black children are far more likely than their white counterparts to be investigated as victims of abuse and neglect, to be placed in foster care, and to be permanently separated from their biological parents.
“Spend a day at dependency court in any major city and you will see the unmistakable color of the child welfare system,” wrote Dorothy Roberts, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, in her 2001 book, Shattered Bonds. “The disproportionate number of Black children in America’s child welfare system is staggering.”
A new study in the American Journal of Public Health quantifies the scope of this disproportionality today, tracking the rates of child protective service involvement in the lives of the half a million children born in 1999 in California. The number of Black children in the system continues to be staggering: Half of Black children, as well as half of Native American children, experienced a CPS investigation at some point during the first 18 years of their lives, compared to nearly a quarter of white children. One in eight Black children spent time in foster care—a rate three times as high as white children. Three percent of Black children experienced termination of parental rights, compared with 1 percent of white children.