Focus on the Figures: Race, Demographics and Foster Care

Every other week, The Imprint features one key indicator from, which offers comprehensive data about the health and well-being of children across California.

This installment of Focus on the Figures examines racial representation in California’s foster care system. Over-representation occurs in foster care when one demographic group’s share of the total foster care population greatly exceeds the share of the total state population accounted for by that demographic.

The chart below shows the number of children under the age of 21 who were in foster care in California on July 1 of 2012.

CSC-graphic-2014.2.18 As the 2012 data above shows, there are about as many black children in foster care in California as there are white children. White children make up 25 percent of the foster care population and black children make up 24 percent.

Per the California Department of Finance’s 2012 estimates, about 27 percent of the state’s child population was white, and about 6 percent of it was black. This means that white children are underrepresented in foster care from a statistical standpoint, and black children are in foster care at four times the rate that population totals would predict.

The number of Latino children in California foster care (26,181) is nearly as high as the combined totals for white and black children. That is actually an under-representation, as the Department of Finance estimates 51 percent of the state’s child population is Latino.

To read more about racial disproportionality and disparities in child welfare, see the Child Welfare Information Gateway and a recent synthesis of research on the issue.

John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Imprint

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