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Governor's Task Force on Disproportionality in Child Welfare

 

Racial disproportionality and disparity in state child welfare systems has been a growing concern in the state of Oregon. The Oregon Department of Human Services, in partnership with the Oregon Commission on Children and Families and Casey Family Programs, is committed to squarely address the issue of racial equity in child welfare services, the overdependence of foster care use, the prevention of abuse and neglect, and the safety and stability of children and families.

 

In 2009, Governor Kulongoski issued an executive order, with support from the 2009 Legislature, establishing a Child Welfare Equity Task Force composed of leaders from across the state. The Task Force has been charged with submitting an initial report and recommendations to significantly reduce and eventually eliminate racial disproportionality.

 

Over the course of the last several months, the Task Force has worked diligently and collectively to understand the issue and make recommendations that will be effective and affordable in order to begin the work of eliminating disproportionality within our foster care system. Members have appreciated the opportunity to contribute and look forward to the Legislature's active support in eradicating this great social and moral injustice. Actively discussing race and institutional racism, and painstakingly examining the impact and contributions of race and racism, set the stage for realigning and transforming the way race influences policy and decision-making. It also diminishes the negative, and unintended ways race influences the culture of the child welfare system.

 

Members of the Task Force hope that other child-serving systems undergo similar targeted change processes to systematically neutralize the negative racial impact on decision making by embracing an appreciation and use of various forms of knowledge. This knowledge includes client, cultural, scientific, professional, and implementation sciences with the aim of achieving equity by applying a learning organization perspective. The Task Force does not argue that children of color should not be placed into foster care when necessary to keep children safe. The conclusion the group reached is that children of color, to a greater extent than white children, are placed into foster care when, with the right supports, those children could instead be safely cared for by their own families and communities.

 

Through a long and challenging, yet rich and unforgettable fact finding experience, the Task Force has come to the conclusion that whatever the root causes of racial disproportionality are (e.g. individual and family risk factors, community risk factors, community and systemic factors as well as cultural and racial influences), it is a practice that must be discontinued in Oregon.