A significantly greater proportion of African American children are in foster care than children of other races and ethnicities, according to HHS and other research. Given this situation, GAO was asked to analyze the (1) major factors influencing the proportion of African American children in foster care, (2) extent that states and localities have implemented promising strategies, and (3) ways in which federal policies may have influenced African American representation in foster care. GAO's methodologies included a nationwide survey; a review of research and federal policies; state site visits; analyses of child welfare data; and interviews with researchers, HHS officials, and other experts.
Matter for Congressional Consideration
|To assist states in increasing the number of homes available for the permanent placement of African American and other children from foster care, Congress may wish to consider amending federal law to allow federal reimbursement for legal guardianship similar to that currently provided for adoption.|
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Health and Human Services||1. To enhance states' ability to reduce the proportion of African American children in foster care, the Secretary of HHS should further assist states in understanding the nature and extent of disproportionality in their child welfare systems and in taking steps to address the issue. These actions should include encouraging states to regularly track state and local data on the racial disproportionality of children in foster care and use these data to develop strategies that can better enable them to prevent children's entry into foster care and speed their exit into permanent homes. HHS should also encourage states to make increased use of HHS's National Resource Centers as a source of technical assistance on this issue.|
|Department of Health and Human Services||2. To enhance states' ability to reduce the proportion of African American children in foster care, the Secretary of HHS should further assist states in understanding the nature and extent of disproportionality in their child welfare systems and in taking steps to address the issue. These actions should include completing and making publicly available information on disproportionality that the agency is developing under its Culturally Competent Practice Knowledge Initiative so that states have easier access to tools and strategies useful for addressing the issue.|