If an anthropologist from the future were to study the United States in 2011, she’d likely conclude that our child welfare system was designed to remove children from families of color.
The numbers are stark. In New York, 82% of kids in foster care are children of color. Studies show that black families are 10 times more likely than white families to be reported to Child Protective Services, and 15 times more likely to have a child removed from their home. (This isn’t a footnote/bibliography kind of blog, but US stats can be found here.)
The child welfare system is designed to privilege white people like Carrie and me. Doors have flown open; we were certified in record time. We can be confident that everyone we meet will assume we aren’t drug users, won’t neglect our foster children and aren’t in it for the money.
What’s more, because we’re not poor, it’s unlikely that our child will be perceived as suffering from “neglect,” the cause of 75% of all child welfare cases. Neglect — poor health care, poor nutrition, lack of shelter — looks looks an awful lot like poverty.
Carrie and I can’t wait to love, nurture, support and celebrate a child in our home. But our job just begins there. The real work in front of all of us is to organize for institutional change that will address the disproportionalities of our system.
Luckily, we’re not alone. A bunch of groups are organizing the community around these disparities, including the Child Welfare Organizing Project and the Anti-Racist Alliance. We invite our friends to join us not just in caring for Blitzen, but in creating a just, equitable world for her to live in.