-Staff Writer-

Save the children

(FinalCall.com) – Almost twelve years ago at the Million Man March, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan asked Black men to go home and adopt the numerous Black children languishing in foster care.

The National Association of Black Social Workers reported that after the Million Man March, a flood of 13,000 applications for Black adoptions were received.


However, the need for stable homes continues to plague Black children who are disproportionately represented in the foster care system according to a new report prepared by the General Accounting Office (GAO) for the House Ways and Means Committee.

Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, released the groundbreaking new report in July on racial disproportionality in foster care in the U.S., and called for federal assistance to find permanent homes.

“Every foster child dreams of a permanent home. For far too many African American children, this is a dream deferred,” Congressman Rangel said in response to the GAO report. “We need to work to reduce barriers to permanency for all foster children, but such an effort is particularly necessary for Black children.

The GAO report highlights several reforms that might make a positive difference, including providing federal assistance for relatives providing permanent homes for foster children.”

The report found that there was a significant overrepresentation of children of color in the nation’s child welfare system. The GAO study (GAO-07-816) found that the level of poverty, lack of support services and racial bias and other factors resulted in Black children representing more than one-third of the children in foster care.

“A child’s need for a permanent home is not dictated by the color of his or her skin. And yet, this report clearly confirms that African-American children are much more likely to be stuck in foster care limbo than other children,” said Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat and chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on income security and family support, which has been holding hearings on foster care issues.

The report recommended that Congress consider amending federal law to allow federal reimbursement for legal guardianship and called on HHS to assist state efforts to find permanent homes for Black children and reduce the disproportionate number of children in foster care.

“We commend Congressman Rangel for his leadership on this critical issue in our nation’s child welfare system,” said Christine James-Brown, President and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA).

“We hope this report will build momentum toward a solution to this challenge that must include legislation that would extend Title IV-E funding to kinship families,” she continued.

CWLA has rejected as inadequate an Administration proposal to replace Title IV-E with a state optional block grant.

Historically, Black children are more likely to be placed with other relatives in what is called “kinship care.” The report is recommending that action is needed to provide kinship caregivers with access to an array of needed supports and services such as counseling, child care, affordable housing, and substance abuse treatment.

Michelle Washington’s story is classic. Her daughter got caught up in the crack epidemic leaving her mother with three children that have been with her since they were toddlers.

The children are now in there teens and Mrs. Washington still has them.

“I just couldn’t see these babies go to foster care and stay there. Nobody’s adopting Black children. I had to take them. They didn’t have anywhere else to go. They are my grandchildren, so now they live with me. Their mother is still on the streets and I don’t know where their daddy is,” she told The Final Call.

In its report on “African American Children in Foster Care,” the GAO said that in 2004, Black children accounted for 162,911, or 34 percent, of the 482,541 children in state care. This is double the proportion of Black children in the general child population, the GAO said.

To explain this “racial disproportionality,” the GAO checked to see whether there was more abuse and neglect in Black families, but the federal National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect showed that children of all races and ethnicities are equally likely to be abused or neglected.

The GAO concluded in the report that poverty and racial bias played roles in getting Black children into foster care. It also found that Black children stayed in the system longer because they were often placed with relatives in subsidized “kinship care.”

It was hard to move these children into permanent arrangements, the GAO explained in the report, because Black relatives didn’t like the termination of parental rights–which meant they couldn’t adopt the children–or they didn’t want to become legal permanent guardians and forfeit the “kinship care” subsidy.