Introduction

Please see the Checklist Section for the Disproportionality checklist.

Background

Disproportionality is the overrepresentation or underrepresentation of a group within a social system at a rate or percentage that is not proportionate to their representation in the general population. Disparity refers to the differences in outcomes and conditions for some groups of people compared to other groups because of unequal treatment or services. African American and Native American children are disproportionally represented and have worse experiences and outcomes than Anglo children in the nation's child welfare system.

Special Issue: The terms used herein to describe populations are the same terms which are currently used to collect race/ethnicity data. In applying an equity lens to the child welfare system, it is important to note that terminology is evolving. African American, Black, Hispanic, Latino/a or Latinx, Anglo, White, Native American, and Indigenous are all terms used to describe race and ethnicity.

This phenomenon has most significantly affected African American children, with national data indicating that African American children represent 23% of children in foster care, although they represent only 14% of children in the general population.[100],[101] This overrepresentation of African American children has been observed in the child welfare system for more than thirty years, yet persists as a national concern. [102],[103]

Disproportionality and disparity can be seen in the experience and outcomes of other populations as well. For example, a 2019 research study by the University of Texas at Austin found that 30.4% of youth in foster care self-identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) compared to 11.2% of youth who self-identify as LGBTQ in the general population.[104] Compared to heterosexual youth in foster care, LGBTQ youth in foster care report greater disparities in terms of school performance, mental health, and victimization.[105],[106]