The child protection system plagued by racism

ALBANY — Black families and children receiving help from the child welfare system are treated differently because of their race, according to a new report from the New York State Bar Association.

There has been an increase in the number of black children being separated from their parents when this outcome may be unnecessary, the report says, adding that “only a quarter of child protection cases involve intentional and harmful acts by parents “.

Reasons for family separation can range from abuse to neglect. Most of the New York cases, according to the report, “involve parents who cannot meet the basic needs of their children due to poverty, and these families are disproportionately black families.”

Census data released in 2020 revealed that poverty rates for minority groups have reached an all-time low. About 18.8% of black residents across the country were in poverty. For Hispanics, that number was 15.7%.

Despite these figures, inequalities persist.

Bar association president T. Andrew Brown said: “This report details the travesty of unfair and unjust treatment of black children and parents in our child welfare system. We need to look carefully at a system which is inherently stacked against Color families.”

The report lists changes the child welfare system could make, including helping families with basic needs like jobs, housing and food.

According to the report, black and Latino children in New York are more likely to be reported to the child abuse hotline than their white counterparts. Additionally, black children in upstate New York make up 10% of the population, yet 33% of them are in foster care.

In a written statement, Susan Lindenauer, chair of the bar association’s committee on families and the law, which is responsible for reviewing issues relating to families, said: “Our effort is to reduce the impact on the well-being of children so that the black family unit can be preserved and not broken.”

“Poverty should not and cannot be the premise of punitive removal of a child. You are punishing children for the poverty of their parents.”

Andrew B. Reiter