Today is the International Day of Families, and it serves as a reminder to celebrate all Maryland families. However, today we are also reminded of the alarming trend plaguing Black and Brown families in Maryland, where an unacceptably high number of youth of color are being removed from loving homes and placed into foster care. It’s time to bring attention to the racism embedded within the foster care and adoption industry, which not only perpetuates the destruction of Black and Brown families but also profits from their suffering.
According to the Center for the Study of Social Policy, Black children in Maryland are 2.9 times more likely to be placed in foster care as compared to their white counterparts. However, with the rate of abuse and maltreatment being fairly even along racial divides, why do we have so many more Black and Brown children removed from their families in Maryland?
While foster care and adoption can be a good protective tool for youth when used correctly, the adoption industry is a for-profit system that profits off the displacement of children from their families. Within this industry, children are commodities and low-income areas are disproportionately targeted. In addition, foster care has become privatized in many places, which results in the disproportionate policing of Black and Brown families with incentives given to child welfare agencies for increased adoptions. That incentive remains the same whether or not the child is removed for a legitimate or illegitimate reason, making it easier for the wrongful removal of some of our most vulnerable children to be extremely profitable.
Implicit racial biases within the child welfare system are a large cause of the overrepresentation of Black and Brown youth in foster care. Studies consistently highlight the impact of racial prejudice within care assessments, resulting in hasty decisions to remove children from their homes. Stereotypes surrounding Black and Brown families, such as racist assumptions of neglect and criminality, need to be actively addressed within the foster care system immediately.
The separation of children of color from their families and communities has far-reaching consequences. It disrupts the bonds that form the foundation of their identity and can perpetuate intergenerational trauma. Placement in unfamiliar environments can compound the challenges these children face, leading to a higher risk of mental health issues, diminished educational outcomes, and increased involvement with the criminal justice system. Additionally, children of color may be placed outside their cultural and religious community, resulting in identity loss. Adoption and foster care have also historically been used as tools of colonization through societal structures such as residential schools for Indigenous youth, which are similar in many ways to group homes and collective placements today.
Support and counseling for parents while prioritizing child safety should be the priority before immediate removal. In many ways, the system neglects Black and Brown parents who could benefit from external support, choosing to give that effort almost unilaterally to white families. Studies have shown that preventative resources, too, are unequally distributed and that Black and Brown families are less likely to receive family preservation services. Children of color also have higher statistics of being mistreated or abused once they’re placed in foster care as compared to their white counterparts and are less likely to receive permanent placements.
We are continuously working towards closing racial disparity gaps in Maryland. We urge you to do the following to help protect Black and Brown families in Maryland:
- Raise Awareness: Share accurate statistics, personal stories, and the devastating consequences of family separation to help foster a greater understanding in your communities.
- Policy Reforms: Advocate for legislative changes that challenge the racial biases embedded within the child welfare system. This includes equitably implementing reviews of placement decisions, cultural competency training, and family preservation services.
- Community Support: Support grassroots organizations that provide resources, mentorship, and advocacy for Black and Brown families, like Progressive Maryland.
- Dismantling Profiteering: Scrutinize financial incentives within for-profit adoption and foster care systems, and advocate for the well-being of children over profit.
It's time to acknowledge and address the systemic racism that permeates Maryland's foster care and adoption industries on this International Day of Families. We must work together to create a society that respects and values every family, regardless of race or background. We can start to establish a system that really prioritizes the preservation and support of Black and Brown families by elevating the voices of impacted families, calling for legislative changes, and assisting community-driven initiatives.
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