Disproportionate number of black children removed by child-welfare officials, study shows
Bill Myers, DC Examiner (August 18, 2008)
Black children in Maryland are being removed from their homes by child-welfare officials at five times the rate of white children, a new study by a nonprofit child advocacy organization has found.
Black kids make up about one-third of Maryland’s child population, yet nearly 75 percent of children pulled from their homes by the state are black, according to an August study by Advocates for Youth & Children, a Silver Spring-based nonprofit group that studies the child welfare bureaucracy.
The racial disparity in Maryland is nearly 50 percent higher than the nation’s overall racial disparity, Advocates reports in its latest newsletter.
The Examiner has written extensively on the region’s child welfare crisis, in which some children are taken from families on flimsy pretexts though others, in real danger, are left in the care of abusive or neglectful parents.
The region was shocked earlier this year when it was revealed that D.C. child-welfare bureaucrats ignored desperate pleas for help for the four daughters of Banita Jacks. Jacks is accused of murdering her girls. The deaths have triggered an intense focus on the child welfare bureaucracy.
Maryland officials could not be reached for comment for this story. But across the region, child-welfare workers are faced with ugly challenges: Their caseloads are ballooning in the wake of the Jacks scandal, but they are also facing an increasingly hostile public that doesn’t like to see them intercede with families without sufficient cause.
Matt Fraidin is a law professor at the University of the District of Columbia who has spent a lot of time trying to reform the capital region’s child welfare systems. He said that Advocates’ report ought to focus new attention on the child welfare system’s “apartheid” system.
Authorities need to focus on various questions like accessible health care and housing, Fraidin said, before they begin taking children from their homes.
“These steps can eliminate the scourge of unnecessary removals of children from their families, and look forward to seeing [child-welfare bureaucrats] increase their focus on addressing racial disproportionality consistent with best practices in the field,” Fraidin said.