The project called for a compilation and analysis of research related to racial and ethnic disproportionality and disparities in child welfare, primarily focusing on research published since the synthesis by Robert Hill in 2006.

In all, over 200 sources were included in the review and over 400 were considered. The review addressed research on child welfare decision-making stages. It describes the main explanatory frameworks that have been formulated for racial disparities in child welfare and includes associated research findings. It also extends to a broader examination of research that explores the role of race as child welfare interacts with other systems of service provision.

Racial disproportionality and disparity in the child welfare system may be, to some extent, explained by all the frameworks described in this synthesis. There is evidence regarding disproportionate need; however, the direct linkage between the risks that families of color experience and their disproportionate child welfare involvement is not always clear.

Some data do suggest that community reporters are more likely to report families of color, and several studies indicate that families of color are more likely to be investigated and placed, and less likely to be reunified. There is a broad pattern of inequitable service/resource availability for families of color. Another factor is that disproportionality may differ by race depending on the region, and the economic and social characteristics of the neighborhood or community.

December 1, 2011

In This Report, You’ll Learn

  1. 1

    The climate suggesting disproportionality and disparity in the child welfare system.

  2. 2

    About a number of different publications that all contribute to characterizing and explaining the issue.

  3. 3

    A collective perspective on the major underlying causes and theories regarding disproportionality and disparity in child welfare.

  4. 4

    The limitations of the research conducted and information gathered to date.

Key Takeaway

How do we decrypt what is happening in the child welfare system?

African-American children have longer lengths of stay in child welfare systems, are slower to exit the system, and have differential permanency outcomes. African American and American Indian children are less likely to exit child welfare under legal guardianship of a caregiver. 

Findings & Stats

Statements & Quotations