African American Children in Foster Care: Additional HHS Assistance Needed to Help States Reduce the Proportion in Care

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U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)

Asked to analyze the major factors behind the disproportionately high number of African-American children in foster care, the GAO conducted a nationwide survey; reviewed research, federal policies and child welfare data; visited state sites; and interviewed experts.

It found that a higher poverty rate among African-American families contributes to difficulties accessing housing, mental health and other services needed to keep families stable and keep their children safely at home. Bias, cultural misunderstandings and distrust were also found to contribute to the more frequent removal of African-American children from their homes. Difficulties recruiting adoptive parents and a greater reliance on relatives who may not want to terminate a parent’s rights (which is required for adoption) often translated into longer stays in the foster care system for such children, the GAO found.

States reported that federal subsidies for adoptive parents were helping them move African-American children out of foster care; however, they also expressed concerns about their inability to use federal child welfare funds to subsidize legal guardians – a law the GAO recommends that Congress amend. Free. 87 pages. (202) 512-6000,