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Understanding Racial Disproportionality in Foster Care

Understanding Racial Disproportionality in Foster Care

Explore the issue of racial disproportionality in foster care, its impact on marginalized communities, and how you might take steps to making a difference.

Understanding Racial Disproportionality in Foster Care

When we say there is "racial disproportionality" in foster care, we are referring to the overrepresentation of certain racial and ethnic groups, particularly Black and Indigenous children, in foster care and adoption. This means that these children are more likely to enter the child welfare system and wait longer in care compared to their white counterparts.

The reasons behind this disproportionality are complex and multi-faceted. They can be attributed to a combination of systemic racism, biases within the child welfare system, and socio-economic factors that disproportionately affect marginalized communities.


What Does Disproportionality look Like?

Black children and teens make up 14% of the general child population, but 23% of the foster care population. In the same year, White children made up 50% of the child population, but only 44% of the foster care population (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2020).

According to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families 2022 Annual Report, 57% of children ages 0 to 17 in our state’s foster care system are children of color. However, youth of color make up only 36% of the state’s total child population.

That means children of color are much more likely to enter foster care than their White counterparts.

The trouble continues throughout their experience in foster care. Research has shown that children of color:

  • wait longer in the foster care system
  • are less likely to reunify with their parents
  • are less likely to be adopted
  • are more likely to age out of foster care without a permanent family


The Cycle of Inequity

The overrepresentation of children of color perpetuates a cycle of trauma and disrupts the cultural and community connections that are essential for the well-being and identity formation of children. Removal from your community and culture is incredibly damaging and contributes to the ongoing inequities in these communities.

At MARE, we are committed to changing these vicious cycles of racism and trauma. You can read more about our commitment and how we are trying to change outcomes for children of color in need of adoptive homes on our racial equity statement.


Taking Action

Understanding the barriers children of color (and families of color!) face in adoption and foster care is a great first step. But what might you do now?

Here are a few ideas:

- Explore implicit bias by taking this test created by researchers at Harvard.

- Consider adopting a child of color - and if you don't share their culture, get trans-racial adoption training

- Speak with Mary Liz, our Outreach and Support Coordinator for Families of Color in order to learn more about navigating adoption from foster care as a family of color.

- Learn more about the wider effects of systemic racism and how it relates to foster care. This article from Dorothy Roberts is a great place to start.