Abstract: An Intersectional Analysis of Disproportionality Among American Indian/Alaskan Native Children in American Foster Care (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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An Intersectional Analysis of Disproportionality Among American Indian/Alaskan Native Children in American Foster Care

Friday, January 13, 2023
Encanto A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Allison Dunnigan, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Claudette L. Grinnell-Davis, PhD, MSW, MS, MTS, Assistant Professor, University of Oklahoma, Tulsa Campus, Tulsa, OK
Justin Harty, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, AZ
Kasandra Dodd, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Georgia, Athens
Background: Disproportionality within the child welfare system is well established. Black and Indigenous youth both experience disproportionality, however, less is known about differences in socio-demographic, placement, and well-being variables for these groups. Further, little is known if there are differences in Indigenous and/or Black youth in foster care that also identify as another race (e.g. Asian, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, white, and 2 or more races). This study seeks to explore whether there are differential experiences and trajectories for Black and/or Indigenous youth when also exploring additional racial identities.

Method: Using the Adoption and Foster Care Reporting System (AFCARS) 2017 foster file, the sample consists of all youth identified as Indigenous or Black/African American who were in foster care during FFY 2017. The sample was further divided to explore the intersection of multiple racial identities. Therefore, youth were coded as “not Indigenous”, “Indigenous only”, “Indigenous and Black”, “Indigenous and white”, “Indigenous and Asian”, “Indigenous and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander”, and “Indigenous and 2 or more identified races”. Black youth were coded using the same groups. Chi square tests of independence between racial identities and sociodemographic, well-being, and placement related variables, were conducted using SAS v9.4 and standardized residuals (ZR) were calculated to identify cells with the greatest levels of non-independence. A ZR over 3 is considered non-independent(following Agresti’s 2007 guidelines).

Results: Differences were observed across all domains (sociodemographic, well-being, and placement related variables). Youth who identify as Indigenous only are more likely to have a case goal of reunification (n=10935, 58.4%, ZR=15.11) than non-Indigenous youth (n=343769, 52.8%, ZR=-11.07). However, youth who identify as Indigenous and white are far more likely to have a case goal of adoption (n=3319, 29.7%, ZR=11.43) and exit care for that reason (n=1215, 10.86%, ZR=9.04). Youth who identify as Black Only are far less likely to have a case goal of reunification (n=81832, 50.20%, ZR=-27). In addition, youths who are Black and Indigenous generally have outcomes more in line with their Indigenous identity while Indigenous and White children frequently experience outcomes not in line with the spirit of ICWA in terms of case goals, termination of parental rights (n=2305, 20.6%, AR=7.38), and being in pre-adoptive placements (n=1413, 12.63%, ZR=12.98) However, Indigenous only youth (n=3148, 16.8%, ZR=-3.67) and Black only youth (n=27764, 17.03%, ZR=-5.86) are both less likely to exit care through reunification.

Conclusion: Both Black and Indigenous youth experience disproportional involvement in foster care and the child welfare system as a whole. However, the experiences and trajectories of Black and Indigenous youths differ on a host of domains, especially when other intersecting identities are considered. Understanding how multiple racial identities intersect with other sociodemographic, well-being, and placement variables inform practice and policy reforms aimed at decreasing racial disproportionality. In addition, a nuanced approach to racial differences is necessary to explicate differences in experiences and trajectories based on racial identity.