#11: A New Focus on Black Girls in Foster Care
The Imprint is highlighting each of the policy recommendations made this summer by the participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program, a group of 11 former foster youths who have completed congressional internships.
The program is overseen each summer by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Each of the participants crafted a policy recommendation during their time in Washington, D.C.
Today we highlight the recommendation of Tashia Roberson-Wing, a graduate student at The Ohio State University.
Congress should instruct the Department of Health and Human Services to disaggregate its child welfare data by race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, and request a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the experience of Black girls in foster care. The Biden administration should create a National Girls Initiative that conducts research on system-involved girls and provides technical assistance to states.
Black girls are overrepresented in foster care, with worse associated outcomes than their white peers, Roberson-Wing asserts. Part of the reason for this, she writes, is that society perceives them to be more adultlike and less in need of emotional supports than their peers, as research has shown.
Thus, she argues, Congress and the White House must take steps to increase the knowledge base about why Black girls come into foster care, and how they are treated once they get there.
In Their Own Words
“Reflecting on my time in foster care, I was either seen as mature, like an adult client who did not need help, or as a kid with an attitude. As a result, fewer resources and opportunities were offered to me, and I had to learn to advocate for myself to get the help I needed. I needed to be seen less as an adult who had it figured out and more like a young girl who needed guidance.”
The Imprint’s Take
As far as the main data collection undertaken to track foster care — the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System — there is an ability to tease out race and gender already, though the publicly released annual report does not cross-reference those two demographics. But researchers do have that ability. On sexual orientation and gender identity, there is a chance that could soon be added into the data elements required from each state.
A GAO study is generally pretty specific in what it goes looking for an answer to. In this realm, we could see it being a five-state deep dive on a set amount of services known to be effective in helping foster youth, with comparisons drawn between Black girls and the general foster care population. That could unearth some real knowledge about whether Black girls are getting short shrift when it comes to the supports that best help foster youth flourish.