Racial Disparity in Foster Care Admissions

Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, Fred Wulczyn, Bridgette Lery, September 2007.

According to national data, although African American children make up only 15 percent of the children living in the United States, roughly 37 percent of the children in foster care are African American. The ratio of the two percentages -- 2.43 -- demonstrates that African American children are overrepresented in the nation's foster care system. In this paper, we aim to better understand the overrepresentation of African American children in the foster care system.

To accomplish this objective, we address the issue of entry rate disparities at the county level. For a population of children in foster care, disproportionality (for any subgroup) arises whenever the admission/discharge equilibrium for one group of children differs from the equilibrium observed for another group. If children from one subgroup enter care in greater numbers and/or stay longer than children from another, the proportion of children in foster care from those groups will not reflect their proportion in the general population.