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A Growing Crisis with Too Many Latino Children Caught in Child Welfare System

LatinaLista — In 2002, Building Blocks for Youth released a report titled ¿Donde Esta la Justicia?

Though the report centered on the unjust disparities in our juvenile justice system when it comes to the treatment of Latino children, there was a small paragraph in the report that virtually went unnoticed until my friend Tomás of HispanicTips pointed it out on his site.

The paragraph read:

Disparate treatment of Latino/a youth manifests itself in numerous ways. In some states, Latino/a children and youth in the child welfare system are over-represented in out-of-home placements, with percentages in placement as high as 56% in New Mexico, 32% in Connecticut, 31% in California and Texas, and 27% in Arizona (Children’s Bureau, 1998).

To be honest, I’m a bit prejudiced when it comes to referring to data that was gathered before the year 2000. Though this particular bit of information is only 8 years old, I sometimes labor under the false assumption that such data is outdated.

Surely with so much attention and scrutinty paid to Hispanic communities in the last couple of years, this sorry statistic would have been relegated to the archives of past injustices, right?

I, of all, should know better.

It wasn’t until I saw a news release issued by the state of Utah’s Foster Care Foundation saying that they were going to start trying to attract more Latino foster families to better service the more than 540 Spanish-speaking children they have in state custody that I began to think that maybe things haven’t changed.

When we consider that Latinos only make up 10.6 percent of the state’s population and children (18 and younger) of all races comprise 31 percent of the population, well the number of Spanish-speaking children in foster care seems somewhat high given the probable number of Latino children in the state.

Not to mention that having so many Latino children in the foster care system goes against the traditional value placed on our children.

So, I decided it was time to get a better picture of just how fast this cultural disintegration is occurring.

According to the report Child Maltreatment 2004 issued by the Children’s Bureau at the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, the breakdown of children victimized by maltreatment are as follows:

African-American children, Pacific Islander children, and American Indian or Alaska Native children had the highest rates of victimization at 19.9, 17.6, and 15.5 per 1,000 children of the same race or ethnicity, respectively. White children and Hispanic children had rates of approximately 10.7 and 10.4 per 1,000 children of the same race or ethnicity, respectively. Asian children had the lowest rate of 2.9 per 1,000 children of the same race or ethnicity.

One-half of all victims were White (53.8%); one-quarter (25.2%) were African-American; and 17.0 percent were Hispanic. For most racial categories, the largest percentage of victims suffered from neglect.

Race and Ethnicity of Fatalities

White children accounted for 43.2 percent of all child fatalities. African-American children accounted for 27.2 percent and Hispanic children accounted for 18.6 percent of fatalities. Children of American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Pacific Islander, “other,” and multiple race collectively accounted for 4.8 percent of fatalities. The race or ethnicity was missing or not able to be determined for 6.1 percent of the fatalities.

It would appear that white and black communities have a much bigger problem with children being victimized with neglect, abuse and other forms of maltreatment.

Yet, as should be the case, children who are victims of such abuse are removed from their homes to give their families a chance to recover so they can better take care of their children.

But it’s a known fact that blacks and Latinos get caught up in the foster care system and receive unequal help than do white families. In turn, this accounts for so many children of color who become “forgotten” in these unstable environments.

One group wanted to make sense of this injustice being levied on children of color.

Synthesis of Research on Disproportionality in Child Welfare: An Update

The report Synthesis of Research on Disproportionality in Child Welfare: An Update released last month by the Casey-CSSP Alliance for Racial Equity did a thorough and amazing job of analyzing the problem that exists for children of color in the foser care system.

Yet, they only focused on black children because, as they said, “there are more black children in the child welfare system than any other racial group.”

But they went on to acknowledge something that is worth noting for everyone concerned about the future of Latino youth:

…And although Hispanics are underrepresented in the child welfare system nationally, they are overrepresented in several states and numerous counties.

The authors of the report go on to say that one of the other reasons they did not focus their paper on Hispanics and other children of color besides blacks is because there is no data.

In other words, no one has ever noticed or deemed it imperative to take a look at Latino youth in the child welfare system.

In turn, there is little anyone can say about how the future of the fastest growing minority in the country will be impacted by select overrepresentation of their children in the child welfare system.

Only one thing we know for sure: nothing will change unless people demand to know, and it can only get worse.

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