Saturday, March 15, 2008

African American children overrepresented in Kentucky foster care

Foster care bias program shuffled
Honeycutt Spears, Valarie.

A former state employee said Cabinet officials are abandoning an initiative to educate those in the foster care system about racial bias.

Last year, after the Cabinet for Health and Family Services admitted that the number of blacks under the state's care were disproportionate to their number in the population, they asked Delanor Manson to lead their efforts.

Manson said that she was fired in January by Gov. Steve Beshear's administration. The Rev. Louis Coleman of Louisville, a civil rights activist, filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department, saying that the Cabinet is discriminating against the state's most vulnerable black families.

But Cabinet spokeswoman Vikki Franklin said that the initiative to educate social workers, school officials and others about bias continues through community meetings and workshops and that the Cabinet continues to support the program with state funding Ð about $260,000 in fiscal 2008.

Workshops have not been scheduled beyond June 30 because state agencies don't know how much money they'll receive in the budget, she said.

The Cabinet found in a study last year that in 11 counties, black children are represented in foster care at more than 1.5 times their percentage of the population. Fayette County is one of the worst examples, with black children in foster care at 3.4 times their proportion of the population. Black children represent 13.5 percent of the population in Fayette County, while they constitute 45.7 percent of the children in foster care. A bill filed by State Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, that proposes to open a Cabinet office to deal with the disparity in treatment for children of color, was passed by the House Health and Welfare Committee Thursday.

Manson said the Cabinet is opposing the bill.

However, Franklin said Cabinet officials are continuing to review the legislation.

Manson was executive director of the Cabinet's office for quality management. No one has since been hired to take over the workshops she led that educate workers in the system about racial bias, she said. Manson said she has continued to conduct the workshops called Race, Community and the Child Welfare System in areas with the biggest problems.

"I am continuing to do presentations, coordinate workshops and meetings as a private citizen without any reimbursement for travel, expenses or salary because it is essential that we keep the communities engaged," Manson said. "I don't want the momentum to go away."

Franklin said Manson is continuing the work on her own and "not at the invitation of the Cabinet."

As the state takes measures to further fund its own workshops, Manson said black children and their families are not being treated fairly.

"Failure to continue the work sends a signal that disparate outcomes for children of color is OK," she said.

Kentucky counties with the highest percentage of black children in foster care:

Jefferson 592
Fayette 308
Christian 23
Graves 29
McCracken 46
Warren 82
Hardin 52
Boyle 17
Kenton 67
Daviess 32
Madison 15

Source: Cabinet for Health and Family Services


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