Poverty. Structural Racism. Neglect. Statement of the problem Public policy solutions

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1 Statement of the problem Public policy solutions Sania Metzger, Esq. Director Special Projects Poverty, Race and Child Welfare Community Service Society Thesis: Differentiating poverty from neglect will curtail unnecessary removals of children from their homes. Differentiating poverty from neglect should drive public policy to, among other things, respectfully include parents in decision making processes and readily provide needed individualized services to low-income families. Poverty Structural Racism Neglect Almost 11 percent of our nation's children had at least one unemployed parent in 2010, affecting nearly 8 million children. Between 2005 and 2008, the foreclosure rate for Blacks and Latinos was roughly 170% of that for Whites and Asian Americans. By 2009, the percent of families who were asset poor had jumped to 37% percent. 1

2 Key findings:racial disparities in households with young children are dramatic. In 2007, 32% of white households with young children were income-poor and 14% had no assets. In comparison, 69% of Latino and 71% of Blacks were income-poor and 40% had no assets. Racial disparities in child outcomes start early and grow overtime: at nine months children score similarly on standard child development test, but by two years old racial disparities emerge. New York s child poverty rate is between 20%-24% along with 18 other states. Compared to White Families with children, Black and Latino families with children are twice as likely to experience economic hardships such as food insecurity. Black child poverty rates in New York is 30%, and ranges as high as 46% in Ohio and Michigan. In New York and the six other states with the largest immigrant population, the child poverty rate ranges from 16% to 34%. 2

3 Research consistently shows the strong correlation between poverty and child welfare. According to the Fourth National Incidence Study of Maltreatment published in 2010, families with an annual income of $15,000 or less are seven times more likely to experience an incident of child maltreatment than were families with annual incomes above $30,000. Black and Native American children/youth are three times more likely to be in foster care than white children/youth; in certain states and counties, Hispanic children are also overrepresented (Hill, 2008). African American children who are removed from their homes stay in care nine months longer than white children due to limited access to family support services, limited or inadequate legal representation of birth parents, as well as difficulties in recruiting and retaining permanent homes (McRoy, 2008). Racial disparities in child welfare should be examined in the multisystem context and addressed through multisystemic solutions (McRoy, 2008). Defining child neglect: knowingly or negligently allowing a child to be deprived of food, clothing, shelter or care The failure by the caregiver to provide needed, age-appropriate care although financially able to do so or offered financial or other means to do so. (The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, USDHSS, 2009) 3

4 Emotional abuse 0.9% Physical Abuse 9.8% Medical neglect 5.3% Sexual Abuse 3.1% Neglect 92.2% Other 25.3% (The total is greater than 100% because some children experience more than one type of maltreatment.) 4

5 Distinguishing Poverty from Neglect State Poverty Exemptions The Arkansas code applies a finding of neglect except when the failure or refusal is caused primarily by the financial inability of the person legally responsible. Ark. Code Ann. Section (12) (b), 2001 Connecticut enacted a poverty exemption statute in 2011: A child or youth may be found "neglected" who (A) has been abandoned, (B) is being denied proper care and attention, physically, educationally, emotionally or morally, or (C) is being permitted to live under conditions, circumstances or associations injurious to the well-being of the child or youth, [or (D) has been abused ] except no child or youth may be found neglected solely because the child or youth is impoverished; Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act of Section 101 Curtailment of involuntary separation of children from their families This section adds a component that states must have laws and procedures in place to ensure that a child is not placed in foster care solely because the child s family is homeless, or living in substandard housing. States would be required to work with the family and state housing authorities to arrange permanent housing for any family that includes a minor child and is either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. We recognized that the biggest correlate to abuse is poverty. The forensic approach [of the traditional investigative model] focuses on compliance and poverty doesn t respond to that. You can t just say Don t be poor or, Don t not have health care. We realized that families might be better off if we focused on resources rather than on compliance. Dave Thompson, the current Child Protection Manager for Minnesota s Child Safety and Permanence Division 5

6 An alternative to traditional child protection investigation response; Cases referred to the alternative track do not allege serious or imminent harm; The policy focuses on assessing the needs of a family rather than on the investigation of an incident to determine fault; Cases are not indicated ; family voluntarily accepts services; The paramount goal of child safety is sought through family engagement and community partnerships. National Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response Institute of Applied Research evaluations of alternative response systems in Missouri, Minnesota and Ohio consistently showed: - the rate of re-reports declined; - families were more likely to receive needed concrete services ; - children were safely provided for at home; - Differential Response is a cost effective policy; - family and caseworker satisfaction with the alternative response process. Multi-disciplinary Parent Legal Representation Parent Advocacy Cross agency Collaboration Family Team Meetings SANIA METZGER, ESQ. COMMUNITY SERVICE SOCIETY NEW YORK DIRECTOR, SPECIAL PROJECTS POVERTY, RACE AND CHILD WELFARE 105 E. 22 nd STREET NEW YORK, NY (212) Public/Private Partnerships 6

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