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Understanding Disparity in Foster Care and Adoption

Understanding Disparity in Foster Care and Adoption

Explore the issue of racial disparity in foster care and adoption, its impact on certain groups of children and youth, and how MARE is taking steps to making a difference. 


In child welfare, the term disparity is used to describe inequitable outcomes experienced by one group of children compared to another group.  

For instance, in Massachusetts for every thousand days staying in foster care, Black and Latino Children are moved 8-10 times whereas White children are moved only 5 times. In other words, in a period of roughly 30 months a Black child might be placed at 10 different homes while a White child will only experience that disruption half of the times.  

When it comes to children in foster care being adopted, Black children are adopted at a lower rate compared to White children. Of the total of 830 children adopted in Massachusetts in Fiscal Year 2022, almost 50% (394) were White children while only 10% (83) were Black. This even though 34% of Black Children in care had a goal of adoption.1 

The same disparity in outcomes is seen for children of color at other crucial areas: exiting from foster care to guardianship, aging out of the system, and the length of stay in foster care.  

Disparity Occurs For Many Children in Foster Care 

At MARE we have identified that disparity also impacts children and youth with significant medical, developmental, and intellectual needs; children with disabilities; neurodiverse children; sibling groups; or youth who identify as LGBTQ+. These groups linger in the foster care system without finding permanent connections with a family or legal permanency through adoption or guardianship. 

How MARE Is Addressing Disparity 

At MARE, we are convinced that addressing disparity requires a different way of thinking about how to achieve the best outcomes for the children and youth we serve. Over the past three years, we have reviewed the processes and practices in our Child, Family Services, and Communications departments to prioritize recruitment, education, and support of families open to children in groups who experience the most disparity: teens, youth of color, sibling groups, children with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ youth.  

In Fiscal Year 2023, 87% of MARE’s placements were children/youth in one of our five target populations, showing that MARE’s services continue to be effective for these groups 

Learn more about the children who wait the longest in the child welfare system by visiting our site here 



Ricardo L. Franco, LSW