We often hear that Minnesota is a great place to live…if you’re white. Wellbeing statistics favor white people in Minnesota and that includes experiences with the child welfare system. Black and Native children are removed from their homes at rates 5 and 16 times higher, respectively, than white children.
The Children’s Justice Initiative at the Minnesota Judicial Branch and the MN Department of Human Services gathered colleagues from across Minnesota from legal, medical, education, and child welfare systems to interrogate a specific area of racial disproportionality: high re-entry rates of African-American children in foster care.
“How have we allowed Black children to re-enter foster care at a rate higher than other children in Minnesota?” was the question at hand this month at a day-long session facilitated by Nyasha Justice with the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law and Kristen Pisani-Jacques with the National Association of Counsel for Children. To address the disparity effectively, we must understand why it’s occurring.
Pre-conversation evaluations with participants outlined the six focus areas for our root cause analysis work in person. Participants suggest Black children re-enter foster care due to:
- Criminalization of poverty
- Historical and system trauma cause mistrust of the system
- Hyper surveillance of Black families by mandated reporters
- Black children’s trauma behavior is viewed as intentional and deliberate
- Unconscious bias and burnout allow for avoidance of known disparities with Black families
- A true commitment to reunification of Black families
But we need to go a step further and ask, “Why?” Why does criminalizing poverty make Black children more likely to re-enter foster care? And why does mistrust of the system due to historical and system trauma lead to higher rates of Black children re-entering foster care?
The quick and obvious and quick answer is white supremacy and racism. Negative assumptions about Black families are pervasive and have daily, traumatic effects on Black families in Minnesota.
There is much more needed and much more to come from this group. The next steps are critical. Procedures, policies, and attitudes must be developed to keep more Black families safely together.
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