Many Working to Solve Issue of Disproportionality of Children of Color in Foster Care

Published: Feb. 21, 2016 at 3:50 PM CST
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People across Iowa are working on solving an ongoing issue.

There's a disproportionate number of minority children in the foster care system.

According to data from Iowa KidsNet, an organization that works with the Department of Human Services to support foster families, in Linn County, 51 percent of the 196 children in foster care last summer identified as something other than Caucasian. In Johnson County, 73 percent of the 48 kids in foster care identified as a race other than Caucasian.

The U.S. Census data shows that about 92 percent of Iowans are white.

A number of people are working on solving the disproportionality of minority children in the child welfare system. That includes DHS, Iowa Kids Net, Juvenile Court Services and foster parents, like Monique Clark.

Clark’s home is typically filled with kids. She's a proud parent and foster parent.

"I take them in as though they are my family from the day they come in the door. This isn't your foster sister or brother, this is your sibling,” Clark said.

She's taken care of about 30 foster children since her early twenties. Currently, she has three of her own children, one adopted child and two foster children.

"It feels like what I am supposed to be doing. If I had enough space, I would probably have like 24 kids here,” Clark said.

Her love for all of her kids is why she's taking center stage to help find a solution to the disproportionate number of black children in the foster care system.

"Considering that the population of the state is a fraction of the population in comparison to what that looks like for foster care, it is concerning,” Clark said.

A community panel discussion held on Thursday was part of that effort.

"Some of the best minds in our state are working on this issue and there has been some progress, but it's slow change. Anything kind of systemic changes takes a long time,” said Iowa KidsNet’s Kai McGee.

McGee, who works as the Recruitment and Retention Manager for Iowa KidsNet, said there are a lot theories behind why children of color are more present in the child welfare system.

"I think it we look at economic conditions and educational conditions and things that have been discussed in our country for a long, long time in terms of equity, in terms of not everybody having that same foundation to start from and build from,” McGee said.

Iowa KidsNet said the uneven number of children of color in the foster care system did improve from 2014 year to 2015. They want to keep that progress moving forward as many continue to work on the issue.

As for Clark, though, she just wants people to do more to make a difference.

"We can have discussions all the time. There's discussions about this or that, it's like blah blah blah, but really you know - what are you going to do? We need more families to step up to be foster parents," Clark said.

Iowa KidsNet said it also faces challenges with placing minority children with families, because they try to keep them connected with their culture.

It said, in Iowa, there are far more Caucasian foster families than African American, Latino or other cultures. Many organizations are working to recruit more foster parents of many backgrounds.