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Race Matters in Nebraska’s Child Welfare System

It is an all-too-common fact that children of color are overrepresented when looking at child welfare data, particularly in measures that we know to be extremely traumatic for children. We kept this in mind as we convened at the Race Matters conference last week. A quick look at the child welfare section of our 2013 Kids Count in Nebraska Report reflects this trend consistently:

If we look at this graph, the bar on the left shows us what our current child population in Nebraska looks like. We would expect similar demographics to appear in other data measures—but as you can see, that isn’t the case when it comes to out-of-home placements or multiple placements. Of course, the data only begins to tell the story of how kids are doing.

A note from day 2 of the child welfare breakout session: “Anything other than equal opportunity for all is immoral and unjust.”

As we broke out into groups on day 1 of the conference, we started to discuss what racial equity means across Nebraska. First, A’Jamal Byndon and Donna Rozell discussed how the Nebraska Families Collaborative has taken intentional steps forward in incorporating a “cultural humility perspective” into their organization, through staff training and meaningful conversation with and within communities of color. We also heard from Robbie McEwen from Nebraska Appleseed about the historical context of the Indian Child Welfare Act, and how Nebraska’s bill can be improved to work better for Native American children. At the end of the day, Glendora Patterson gave us some insight into the Raising Young Grandchildren group at the Nebraska Children’s Home Society, raising issues over the lack of support available to kinship caregivers and consequences for the children in their care, who are oftentimes from impoverished communities of color. In the same session, I discussed recent research from my upcoming informal kinship care issue brief on possible policy options for better supporting kinship families.

After a full day of information, we headed into the second day to discuss action steps as we utilized the Racial Equity Impact Analysis Tool on our vision for the future of racial equity in child welfare. Energized with inspiration from our keynote speakers, the room was full of ideas for intentionally seeking racial equity through policy change. The conversation ranged from thoughts on staff training and caseloads to data collection. Although the situations were all hypothetical newspaper headlines—“Children of color in out-of-home care falls to a record low!”—working through the issue in a group allowed for us all to begin thinking about continuing to advocate for racial equity in our own spheres of influence.

The conference was a meaningful learning process for all of us at Voices for Children, as well, and we invite you to continue the conversation with us as we work on an evaluation report and the next steps with the Partners for Race Equity. Stay tuned!

Thank you to taking the time to share!

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