Monday, November 16, 2015

Disproportionality Research

I'm week 12 into my field placement and all I can think about is how important this research is to the children and families we serve. Going into this macro placement, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. Every day I learn sometimes new and I am inspired to do macro work. We distributed a survey that looks at disproportionality on the different levels: individual, system, and society. We have a lot of work to do. The question is how do you discuss race in an organization that is having an issue with disproportionality in child welfare?

 Sometimes, I have to try to think in a way that is neutral to people of color. I honestly, feel for my people of color who are being discriminated against and oppressed. Now I have to come up with recommendations to help address disproportionality.

Recommendations we already have are:
  • A training on implicit bias (normalize it and don’t make it about race)
  • Activities such as self-reflection, icebreakers, and allowing people to to have discussion
  • Training in schools, and police department about disproportionality
  • Have people listen to CPS phone calls
  • Support Groups for workers
  • Find ways to increase client engagement
  • Raise awareness about disproportionality
  • Having more family partnership meetings
  • Partnership with other organizations
  • Interfacing with the community more in a positive light
  • Cultural brokers
  • Cultural competent mandated reporter training
  • Having intensive training for staff
  • In-house trainings

Any suggestions? Let's have a discussion. Please comment below.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Implicit Bias in Child Welfare

In the child welfare system there is an over-representation of minorities. We can look at the history of the United States to understand the racial tension. I was reading an article entitled "Implict Bias in the Child Welfare, Education and Mental Health System" by Michael Harris and Hannah Benton. Recently, I took the Harvard Implicit Bias test and I wasn't too surprise at my test, but I have not taken all of them. You can take the different tests at:

No matter if you are in the helping profession, it is good to be aware of bias because we all have them. The problem is when the implicit bias affects your work and decisions that  are being made about the lives of our children.

Key points in the article:

  • Black families are most severely over-represented about three times the rate of White families. 
  • Various decision makers determine the outcome of a child welfare proceeding; whether a case is referred, screened-in, investigated, and substantiated 
  • The research indicates the various points where decision makers could unconsciously rely on racial biases about minority families when reviewing the facts of a case and that will lead to subjective case review and evaluation. 
  • There is not any evidence to suggest that Black children were abused more severely than White children
  • Socioeconomic status may not be the determining factor in child welfare case outcomes but that race plays a significant role
  • A study showed Black children were twice as likely to be placed in foster care in counties where they were a small proportion of the total population when compared to counties where Black children are comprised the majority 
  • Further research is needed to determinate how to avoid racial bias impacting those discretionary decisions. 
Let's have a discussion on what can we do on each system level to eliminate these racial biases and disproportionality in child welfare?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Fatherless Towns

About a week ago I came across a video with Lisa Ling talking to Steve Harvey about an episode she did looking at the fatherhood program, and the father daughter dance in Richmond, Virginia. As soon as I heard the words Richmond, Virginia. I immediately searched for the episode. This episode left me in tears because most of the fathers sold drugs in order to provide for their families. One of the strengths of the video is  definitely the positive impact the fatherhood program in the jail leaves on the father. They are able to look at life through a different lens.

 I noticed that most of them do not have a GED or a high school diploma. I think it's a perfect example of the New Jim Crow and the school to prison pipeline. So check out the video and leave comments of what you thought of the video.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


If you have been reading my blog, you will notice there are different topics I talk about all relating to child welfare and minorities. Last night, in my child and youth social policy class I was listening to a classmate present on comprehensive sex education classes. Well, I started to think about how important is it to provide education on communication and relationships. In society, we communicate in a lot of ways through phone, face to face, email, text messaging, social media, Skype. We now have so many ways to obtain knowledge.

So I started to think, how often do children and parents communicate? I have worked with families from different backgrounds and I have often wondered. How are they taught about relationships and communication? Does everyone know how important communication is? Do we realize how important human relationships are?

Human relationships are so important that we need to learn how to value them and also distinguish what is healthy and unhealthy. I can't remember a time where I was taught how to effective communication or how to have a healthy loving relationship with others.

These things matter, these things need to be taught because everyone doesn't naturally know how to be an effective communicator.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to someone about communication and giving examples on how we can miss a lot in communication. We will hold grudges and not be open to listen to one another.

Everyone should attend a class that focuses on effective communication and how to have healthy relationships. If we teach these classes early and in the schools. We can reduce a lot of issues and social problems. Think about when people do not communicate their needs, issues, and wants. Meditate on how it feels when you can't voice your opinion. Think about how clients feels when they are in their situations and feel like no one hears them. Communication can help start the conversation and set a lot of people free.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Many families in the African-American community are led by single mothers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million homes do not have the biological father in the home. Previously, I have written about disproportionality in the child welfare system, and how we need to further engage fathers.

 First, we have to understand history to better understand why there is this phenomenon. Slavery is the root of American history, and there is no way around it. The impact of slavery is still very present today. We have a new form of slavery, which is the criminal justice system. During the colonial period, Africans were not valued as humans and were not allowed to get married, and were often split up during the slave trade. Fast forward to the 1950's and 1960's, unemployment in the black community was escalating.  Under the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson, women could not receive benefits if they were married, or their husband resided in the home. This created the lasting effect of fatherless homes.

Now, in 2015, we still have single-parent homes than ever. Leaving social workers puzzled on how to make social change. We want our clients to be self-sufficient, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done. There are a lot of restrictions that prevents us from being change agents. The common person would say get a better job or go to school. However, in some cases that is easier said than done. We look at the lack of programs for fathers. How come fatherhood programs aren't taught in schools? That's where a lot of the fathers are located in schools, and in the community. Also, we can't discount the prison system.

Since 2001, 1 in 6 African-American men has been incarcerated. That is an epidemic!

So what can we do as social workers?

First, we need to start having discussions that this phenomenon is occurring and be aware that this is not only impacting African American men but Latino and Native American men as well. Then we need to attend city council meetings/ town hall meetings to make our elected officials aware of the statistics plaguing our communities.

We need to work with other community partners to advocate for policy changes that targeted African American men. If a lot of the fathers are locked up, how are we giving our children a chance to thrive?

We must organize and lobby on the state and federal level to get our elected officials to make policy changes to provide more prevention as well as programs and services for the prison population.

Now, let's open up a discussion here, what else can we do in order to tackle this social issue?
Please comment below! Thank you for reading.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fatherhood Engagement and the Importance of Including the Father in the Process

Today, 1 out of every 3 children in America is living in a home without his or her natural father. 

When we think about a family unit, we often think about the mother, father, and the children. Now, days the family is no longer the nuclear family with the father, mother, and 2.5 kids. Families are a lot less traditional. A family can be defined in many ways depending on who you are talking to. As a social worker, we look at our own personal experience and think about the role of our mother, and father. We think about the impact each parent has made on our lives, and how an absent parent can make a traumatic difference. I want to look at the role of the father and how their involvement impacts child welfare. If social workers engage with fathers and include them in the process does that mean the child has a better chance of staying with the family?

Let's look at the research, over the course of time, we have learned more about the essential roles of both the fathers and mothers in the healthy development of their offspring. Children with involved, loving fathers are much more likely to do well in school, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors such as truancy, drug use, and delinquent activity, than children who have fathers who are not involved. Boys and young men growing up without a father face enormous risks compared with males who are raised with heir fathers. 

 Child-serving systems tend to discount the important of fathers' involvement. Typically, they only look at child support as the only critical responsibility. Financial support is key, but it takes more than finances to raise a child.  When looking at this phenomenon from a behavioral health perspective, the assumption is the father is not involved if he does not attend the appointments. As a group, fathers are less likely to attend meetings than mothers. In most cases, fathers are not absent fathers. Historical and systemic factors help us to understand why fathers may sometimes be or appear to be less involved in the lives of their children than mothers are. 

Statistics about single parent homes and fathers. 

In the United States, 20 million children live in single parent homes. 18 percent of the single parents who currently live with their children are men, while 82 percent are women.
The number of single father has increased from 400,000 to 2.5 million since 1970. 
24 million  children (34 percent) do not live with their biological fathers.
40 percent of children in father-absent homes have not seen their fathers once during the past year.
Approximately 50 percent of children not living with heir fathers have never set foot in their father's homes. 
Fathers are an integral part of their families as well as their communities. Fathers bring a rich perspective to systems that have historically focused primarily on mothers or female caregivers.  When father are involved in their children's live the children they care enter formal systems less frequently, less deeply, and for a shorter period of times. The majority of enrolled children in the systems of care are male, inclusion of male caregivers in systems of care is especially critical. 

As social workers on the micro level, we should ensure that fathers have access, voice, and choice in the development, implementation, and revision of service plans. Social workers should make efforts to make contact with the fathers. Asking caregivers if Dad will be a part of the meeting. Being able to be flexible with father's work schedule and try to schedule meetings at times that are convenient for fathers. Engaging Dad in the meeting and asking for his input. When fathers are unable to attend meetings, social workers should ask for their input in advance to have his opinion included in decision making. 

It is very important to follow up with fathers when they must be absent from meetings to ensure they understand what is going on in the process. Most importantly, making sure the service plans are culturally and linguistically competent and they should meet the diverse needs of fathers by ensuring that cultural preferences, practices, and mores are learned, understood, and honored. 

The next blog we can look at what we can do on the mezzo, and macro level to help further engage fathers to help bring families back together. Please comment about this issue below. Thank you reading!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Disproportionality Overview and Foster Care Statistics

Disproportionality: An  Overview and Foster Care Statistics 

The term disproportionality can be a foreign word to someone who is not in the human service field. Disproportionality is the over-representation of a particular group of people, who does not make up a large group in the total population. For example,  if African Americans make up 13 percent of America's population, and they represent 75 percent of the foster care system then that is a disproportionate rate.

So what does this mean for practitioners? Are the systems put in place not culturally competence? Does this mean that minority parents are unable to take care of their offspring? What is really going on, and what can we do to solve this social problem? As a social worker, we have to utilize our skills to assess what we can do to bring about social change. We have to use the data to inform our practice. We can do the research, but we also need to figure out what the next step is.  How can we make changes in efforts to provide culturally competence services for the clients we serve?

A lot of time we are passionate about certain issues affecting certain populations, and we come up with great solutions. The hardest part is being about to implement those changes to translate into effective practice. This is not about macro social worker vs clinical or direct service. The purpose of looking at the research is to look at the data , and work together to create solutions in order to implement change.  Let's first look at the statistics.

In 2008, U.S. Census Bureau conducted an American Community Survey. This data shows that African Americans are over-represented in the foster care system.

During 2013, CWLA (Child Welfare League of America) looked at a snapshot of America's children. The number of children in America under 18 is 73, 586, 612. Of that makeup 52.2% were white children (not Hispanic) , and 47.8% non-white children. 32.8% were under 6, and 33.6 were between 6-11. Youth ages 12-17 represented 33.8%.

402,378 children were living in an out of home placement, 101,840 were waiting to be adopted, 677,997 cases were considered substantiated/indicated as abused or neglect.

When looking at all of this data, you have to also look at the overlaps of poverty and abuse/neglect. 16,086,960 children were living in poverty, and 30,674,476  hildren were living in low-income families.

In 2013, approximately 3.5 million allegations of child abuse and neglect, representing 6.4 million children made to CPS (Child Protective Services).

Now let's look at the racial background on a national level. Data was collected by AFCARS (Adoption & Foster Care Analysis & Reporting System) did a point in time study. On September 30, 2013 there were 402,378 children in foster. 42 percent were White, 24 were African-American, 22 were Hispanic, 9 percent were multiracial or other. According to their website other races or multiracial includes, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, and two or more race. 3 percent were unknown or unable to be determined.

In Virginia in 2013, there were 4,389 children in foster care.  The statistics below were collected on the last day of the year in 2013.

Five Highest Cases of Foster Care in Virginia in 2013.

Norfolk - 250
Fairfax County- 249
Richmond- 225
Virginia Beach- 193
Roanoke City- 186

Please feel free to leave comments, and start discussions. I love hearing feedback.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Introduction to Blog: Give Our Children A Chance

Welcome to the Give Our Children A Chance Blog!

Here at this blog we will be discussing the social issue of "Disproportionality in Child Welfare" specifically children of color.

I am currently a MSW student doing my concentration placement at a local social services. Here at the agency that has been a trend of more African American children coming into foster care. As social work practitioners we know that kinship care is a safer and more effective options for our children, but the State of Virginia does not recognize kinship care. I have a few goals for this blog:
  • To make awareness of this social issue
  • To educate the community on issues that affect our children in child welfare
  • Create solutions that will help reduce the disproportionality of children of color in the child welfare system in this city
  • Collect and analyze data
  • Advocate and be a voice for the children in this community   
I know I have a lot to accomplish, but I have big ideas. As an inspiring macro practitioner, I am interested in making changes on the larger level as well as the community level. This will help facilitate change on the micro level, where our children are being affected.

Previously, I became interested in foster care issues at a placement during my BSW program. My focus was not in the foster care area, but I became intrigued by the independent living program. At the time I also became a CASA worker. Very interesting experience, so now I am looking at the research to see what can be done.

Please comment below if you have comments or suggestions.

Thank you for reading!