Washington: Welfare System a Pipeline to Prison
Tanya Washington, associate professor at Georgia State University College of Law, addressed how racial bias and profiling operate in the child welfare system to the detriment of black children, black families and the black community during a July 29 National Bar Association panel to discuss racial profiling.
During the keynote event at the association’s annual convention in Atlanta, Washington joined civil rights notables, the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson Sr., as well as Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The panel coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education (1954).
“The child welfare system supplies the pipeline to prison with a steady supply of black children, who are overrepresented in foster care,” Washington says. “Black families are less likely to receive in-home support services to preserve the family unit, and a black child is two times more likely than a white child to be removed from their home and placed in foster care.
“Black children remain in foster and institutional care longer than white children and black children are more likely to age out of the system, upon reaching the age of majority, and into the pipeline to prison,” Washington says.
According to studies, 26 percent of children in foster care are black; however, black children only comprise 13 percent of our nation’s total population of children.
In addition, other studies show that one in three African-American males have a lifetime likelihood of imprisonment or court supervision, compared with one in six Hispanic males and one in 17 white males.
“The child welfare system reflects similar racial disparities among black, Hispanic and white children,” Washington says.
“How did we get to this point? We need more research focused on how race and class conspire to create this troubling reality for black children,” Washington says. “Mandatory reporters need cultural competency training to surface and address racialized profiles of black parents and black families, and abuse and neglect laws need to be more clearly defined to establish what constitutes maltreatment to address reporting disparities.”