Session: New Frames for Persisting Problems: Racial Disparities, Bias, Poverty, and the Notion of Evidence (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

20 New Frames for Persisting Problems: Racial Disparities, Bias, Poverty, and the Notion of Evidence

Thursday, January 13, 2022: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Supreme Court, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
Cluster: Child Welfare
Reiko Boyd, PhD, University of Houston, Alan Dettlaff, PhD, University of Houston, Darcey Merritt, PhD, New York University, Jason Plummer, MSW, University of California, Los Angeles and James Simon, PhD, LCSW, California State University, Los Angeles
The overrepresentation of Black children has been observed in the child welfare system for nearly 60 years, yet it persists as un unresolved problem. Efforts to address this overrepresentation have been hampered by a persistent debate in the child welfare field regarding the factors that contribute to this problem. This debate concerns the extent to which racial bias in child welfare systems contributes to the observed racial disparities, or whether poverty and disproportionate need are the stronger explanatory factors. Although research supports both of these views, the role of structural racism has rarely been centered, and the persistence of this debate points to a larger problem in the child welfare field regarding how evidence is constructed, the hierarchies placed on evidence, and the lens through which evidence is generated and interpreted. To truly center racial equity and social justice in research, policy, and practice, the child welfare field, and in particular child welfare scholars, must move past this debate. It is time for the field to acknowledge that the existing child welfare system is a deeply flawed system that is plagued by racism and ultimately perpetuates inequality. Although racism is widely known to be deeply problematic across many systems including the criminal legal system, education, health, and mental health, the child welfare system is unique as it is the only system in which this debate persists. It is time for the field to reject the deeply ingrained notion of exceptionalism when it comes to racist inequities and to work towards eliminating the harmful effects of racism that exist across social service systems. This roundtable will begin with a brief dialogue about the history of the ongoing debate, its harmful consequences, and a call to reevaluate how we understand the problem of racism that exists in child welfare systems. Presenters will then explore how prevailing narratives about data and evidence contribute to the perpetuation of racial disproportionality and disparity and adversities experienced by Black families. Specifically, presenters will respectively discuss the following interrelated topics: -The unrecognized consequences generated by the racial disproportionality debate and by pitting racial bias against disproportionate need. -Prevailing notions of evidence in the child welfare literature, and how such evidence can be used to perpetuate harm that is inflicted on Black children and families. -Fundamental shortcomings in the use of statistical controls to explain racial disparities, including flaws in the common quantitative approaches used to discount the role of racial bias in perpetuating racial disparities. -Opportunities in rejecting the use administrative data as a gold standard in documenting racially disparate outcomes and the potential in applying pertinent methodological and theoretical alternatives. Presenters will enrich the discussion by highlighting relevant intersections of their ongoing research. Ultimately, our goal is to stimulate conversations that move from merely describing the extent of disparities or justifying inaction, to focus on harnessing resources and strengths to build solutions and promote equity among Black families and their children.
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