Racial Disparity in Foster Care Admissions
Fred Wulczyn, Bridgette Lery2007
According to national data, roughly 37 percent of the children in foster care are African American despite the fact that African American children make up only 15 percent of the children living in the United States. The ratio of the two percentages – 2.47 – reflects the fact that African American children are overrepresented in the nation’s foster care system. To better understand this overrepresentation, this study addresses the issue of entry rate disparities at the county level. The study is based on children first placed in foster care between 2000 and 2005, from 1,034 counties in states that contribute to the Multistate Foster Care Data Archive. Patterns in the underlying data connect disparity to age- and place-specific risks. Both placement and disparity rates are highest for infants – particularly African American infants. Disparity generally decreased over time because the placement rate for white children increased while the rate for black children declined. However, disparity increased for teens. Rates of entry declined in urban areas during a period when placement rates in more rural counties increased. In addition to these basic data, the report also examines how entry rate disparities at the county level vary in relation to characteristics of the local population. Disparity tends to be lower in counties with a larger proportion of African American residents, children in poverty, female-headed households, and residents with less than a high school education.