Thursday, April 19, 2007

Join the Conversation about racial inequities in foster care

Readers Forum: Confronting the racial disparities in the foster care system
Deines, Helen. Louisville Courier-Journal, April 9, 2007, pg. A6.

Applause for your April 3 editorial regarding "Race and family" in Kentucky.The commonwealth's Cabinet for Health and Family Services has courageously acknowledged the racial disparity in the number of children it removes from their own homes and places in foster care.

No state is exempt from this problem.

Kentucky models honesty in being among the first to plan specific actions to keep all children safe in ways that are also fair to every child and family.

The statewide plan is actually an expansion of a pilot program, nurtured in the Cabinet's Metro Louisville office with the guidance of the Casey Family Programs Foundation.

Many of us in Louisville — child welfare workers, birth parents who have regained custody of their children, youth raised in foster care, community partners, academics — have been working together for 18 months to grapple with these racial disparities and to make changes in all of our work.

There are some key facts to face:

-Research is clear that white families and families of color in like circumstances are equally likely to maltreat their children.

-Most children in foster care are there for poverty-related neglect, not abuse.

-The racial inequities we see in child welfare mirror the racial inequities we see in health care, education, criminal justice and economics.

-We are dealing with community problems that play out in the lives of children. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services cannot respond to these problems alone.

-Professional child welfare workers need each of us to do what we can, especially to reach out to poor families of color.

There are many ways to help, from lending a hand to a neighbor experiencing hard times, advocating for a living wage, welcoming affordable housing stock in our subdivisions, unraveling our un- spoken biases, and — of course — calling the child abuse hotline if we suspect a child is in danger.

There is even a Web site where you can keep current, ask questions, request a speaker for your congregation and make your opinion known. Just go to

It will take this whole community to undo the racial inequities embedded in the lives of our children.

Louisville 40220


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