Understanding the over-representation of African Americans in the child welfare system : San Francisco : final report.
Bowser, Benjamin P. Jones, Terry.
Published: August 2004
Available from: Benjamin Paul Bowser
California State University, East Bay 25800 Carlos Bee Boulevard
Hayward, CA 94542
Tel: 510-885-3187 (Direct Line) 510-885-3173 (Dept. office)
This report is the product of an intensive eight-month research project that investigated the over-representation of African Americans in the child welfare system in San Francisco. Interviews were conducted with 51 social workers in 10 confidential focus groups and four one-on-one interviews. In addition, four anonymous and confidential focus groups were conducted with a total of 20 family members who had their children taken into custody by Child Protective Services (CPS). Finally, the San Francisco Department of Human Services accessed the anonymous case records of all children reported in San Francisco foster care services for five years, 1999-2003. The study found that in 2003 African Americans were 11% of children in San Francisco but were 45% of all reported allegations of child abuse, neglect or violence. Data from focus group participants and interviews provided the following insights: poverty is the number one reason for the disproportion in reports of African Americans to the CPS hotlines; drug abuse was reported as the leading background cause of child neglect among African Americans in San Francisco; mandatory reporting by health and school officials of any suspicion of abuse, neglect or violence against a child is asserted as one cause of disproportionate reports on African Americans to CPS; African American mothers who have mental health problems are a third major source of reports to CPS; incarceration of the parent exposes their children to possible removal if there is no one else to care for them; in some cases, African American extended families use child welfare investigations as a way to access human and financial resources; African American families are more likely to use verbal threats and physical violence to discipline their children than other ethnic groups; investigators are more likely to err on the side of substantiation for African American children who received child abuse reports in the past; CPS in San Francisco is more likely to file petitions and go to court to remove a child from a parent than other California counties; and reunification with birth parents is slowest in relative foster care. Recommendations from the focus groups include: use multi-discipline teams to make determinations to substantiate, remove, and file for petition for foster care; use probate courts to protect the rights of care-giving relatives rather than foster care; provide more services in the community for high-risk families, especially for fathers; provide free prenatal care that also focuses on drug abuse prevention; have child and family services work more closely with housing, employment and drug treatment programs; and provide residential programs and half-way houses for drug abusers where mothers can keep their children while receiving services and training. Recommendations are also provided on gathering additional data. 8 references and 10 charts.
california; african americans; foster care; racial disproportionality; incidence; data collection; data analysis