Racial disproportionality and disparities are problems affecting children and families of color in the child welfare, juvenile justice, education, mental-health, and health-care systems. The term “disproportionality” refers to the ratio between the percentage of persons in a particular racial or ethnic group at a particular decision point or experiencing an event (maltreatment, incarceration, school dropouts) compared to the percentage of the same racial or ethnic group in the overall population. This ratio could suggest underrepresentation, proportional representation, or overrepresentation of a population experiencing a particular phenomenon. The term “disparity” refers to “unequal treatment or outcomes for different groups in the same circumstance or at the same decision point.” A close examination of disproportionality and disparities brings attention to differences in outcomes, often by racial group, and by social service systems. It is necessary to examine the reasons for these differences in outcomes and to be sure that culturally competent practices are upheld.
Rowena Fong, Ruth G. McRoy, and Alan Dettlaff
Wendy Haight and Priscilla Gibson
Racial disproportionality in out-of-school suspensions (suspensions) is a persistent, multi-level social justice and child well-being issue affecting not only youth, families, and schools but society as a whole. It is a complex, multiple-level social problem that will require an equally complex response. The design of effective remedies will require adequate understanding of the problem as well as the historical and sociocultural contexts in which it emerged and is perpetuated. Progressive educators have offered a number of alternatives to harsh and exclusionary discipline, but research is needed to examine their effectiveness, especially in reducing racial disproportionalities.
This article summarizes the incidence of women in the United States who have been sentenced to prison as a consequence of a felony conviction for violation of state or federal laws. It also describes their characteristics and co-occurring health conditions; issues that contribute to women’s experiences after release from prison, including those that lead to success and failure during re-entry; and gendered practices and policies that provide alternatives to incarceration.
Rowena Fong, Ruth G. McRoy, Amy Griffin, and Catherine LaBrenz
A history of transracial and intercountry adoptions in the United States is briefly provided as well as highlights trends, demographics, practices, and policies that have evolved as families have become more diverse. The current prevalence of intercountry and transracial adoptions in the United States is examined as well as the impact of policy changes in the United States and abroad on rates of intercountry adoption. Additionally, the challenges that have emerged for children adopted transracially and from abroad, as well as for their adoptive families, are reviewed. These include navigating ethnic and racial identity formation, cultural sensitivity, and challenging behaviors. Finally, future directions for social work practice, research, and policy are explored, and implications are provided for social workers intervening with families who have adopted children transracially or internationally. Specifically, adoption-competent professionals should also integrate cultural humility and competence into their therapeutic work with adoptive children and families. Implications for research in the conclusion focus on expanding prior studies on intercountry and transracial adoptions to incorporate racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in the literature. Policy implications include increasing access and funding for post-adoption services for all adoptive families.
Peter J. Pecora
The mission of child welfare is multifaceted and includes: (a) responding to the needs of children reported to public child-protection agencies as being abused, neglected, or at risk of child maltreatment; (b) providing children placed in out-of-home care with developmentally appropriate services; and (c) helping children find permanent homes in the least-restrictive living situations possible; and (d) providing “post-permanency” services to children so they do not return to foster care. This section describes the mission, scope, and selected issues of major child-welfare-program areas.
Susan J. Wells and Geoff Johnson
The true extent of child abuse and neglect is unknown but reports to state agencies indicate over 3 million reports concerning maltreatment of over 6 million children are made each year. Confirmed reports involved over 679,000 children in 2013. Yet, only 32% of the children known to be harmed by maltreatment in the community are investigated by child protective services. The perplexing dilemma in surveillance and service delivery is how to identify those who need help without spuriously including those who do not. This entry focuses on the definition of maltreatment and provides an overview of the history, etiology, and consequences of child abuse and neglect as well as the current trends and dilemmas in the field. To afford some perspective for the reader, some international data and information are provided.