Disproportionality Rates for Children of Color in Foster Care

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Most states continue to place high rates of African-American children in foster care, said a recent report on race and foster care by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Justices (NCJFCJ).

The report, Disproportionality Rates for Children of Color in Foster Care, breaks down the disproportionality rates of children in foster care for each state in 2004 and 2009. Disproportionality is calculated in this study by taking the population of children in foster care for a particular race and dividing it by the proportion of the same racial group in the child population.

There has been a national decrease in African-American disproportionality rates – the rate was 2.65 in 2004, and dropped to 2.36 in 2009 – but nearly every state involves a higher percentage of African-American children in foster care than their population figures would predict. States with the highest disproportionality rates of African-Americans in foster care in 2009 were Wyoming with a rate of 6.0, Utah (4.4), Wisconsin (4.2), and California (4.1). Hawaii and Oregon were the only states where African-American children were actually under-represented in the foster care population.

Most states with high African-American disproportionality rates also remove a high rate of children,according to research by the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, which calculates its state rate-of-removal index by dividing the number of children removed from their homes by the number of children living in poverty.

Of the 17 states with a rate above 2.5, only Illinois and Ohio have a rate-of-removal index below the national average of 18.3. Four of the 17 states – Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and Colorado – are in the top 10 on the rate-of-removal index.

Latino children are actually under-represented nationally in foster care. Only “a handful of states,” by this report's measure, place a disproportionate number of Latino children in foster care.

Native American disproportionality rates were highest in Washington, Idaho, Nebraska and Minnesota. Minnesota had an extremely high disproportionality rate of 11.6, nearly twice the level of any other state. For Native American children, the rate of disproportionality was 1.83 in 2004; it had slightly declined to 1.76 by 2009.

For the full, free 85-page report click here.