05.26.2021

It’s Past Time We Address Why BIPOC Youth Experience Foster Care More Than Their Peers

By Dr. Lisa Chin, Treehouse CEO

When John Lewis walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama racism was overt. Black people were limited to taking specific seats on busses or kept off of them entirely, and there were restrictions on things most of us take for granted like which restaurants those deemed to look different could dine at.

Over the last year our country has been grappling with the legacy of these racist systems. We may not segregate so openly, but our political and economic systems continue to reinforce the unequal access to resources of generations past. And, for the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) youth who experience foster care, children who are being raised by the state, the systemic racism built into those systems has devastating consequences.

May is National Foster Care Month, and now is the time to look at how the foster care system continues to act on policies that were built in that same era of segregation, creating ongoing disparities despite decades of reform.  It is essential that we focus our attention on why it is that BIPOC youth continue to enter the foster care system at rates disproportionate to their rate in the general population, and who are more likely to experience negative outcomes while in care.

What do I mean by “Disproportionate?” According to 2018 data, Black children make up 13.71 percent of the population, but account for 22.75 percent of the youth in foster care, while white children make up more than 50 percent of the population but are only 44.37 percent of youth who experience foster care.

Similar numbers are found across the racial spectrum, with minorities making up a higher percentage of the foster care population than the overall population.

Why?

The system was designed to more readily find Black and Indigenous parents unfit. These patterns are embedding in every step,  aligning hallmarks of poverty and racism with violations of standards of safety and stability. These systems don’t have heartbeats, so for BIPOC youth whose lives are essentially under governmental control, the consequences of the flaws in the system can be catastrophic.

Organizations like Black Lives Matter and Stop AAPI Hate have stepped up to expose how pervasive the systems are that disproportionally affect BIPOC youth in the foster care system. And, now that the veneer of these systems has been stripped away, it’s past time for us to begin the process of rebuilding the system so that operates as it should, as we demand it to, elevating and supporting our BIPOC youth and centering on the success of every youth, child and teen.

Issues of race, equity and oppression are at the forefront of public discussion, so let’s seize this moment to elevate this conversation and not let it fall to the wayside. At a time when all our major systems are being called into question, we have an opportunity to advocate for changes in the foster care system that will support these students to achieve their dreams.

May is National Foster Care Month. To get involved, visit: treehouseforkids.org/takeaction.

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About the Author

A visionary strategist and fundraiser, Lisa Chin has more than 20 years of experience in senior executive leadership with a proven ability to scale mission-focused organizations. She has spent her career focused on young people, education and equity-based systems change, providing opportunity to those who need it most.


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