Rangel and McDermott Highlight Need to Reduce the High Number of African American Children in Foster Care

Jul 30, 2007
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel released a report today from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which shows that African American children are twice as likely to enter foster care than White children, even though children of all races are equally as likely to suffer from abuse and neglect. The report also found that Black children remain in foster care longer than other children.

 “Every foster child dreams of a permanent home.  For far too many African American children, this is a dream deferred," Rangel said in response to the GAO report. “We need to work to reduce barriers to permanency for all foster children, but such an effort is particularly necessary for Black children.  The GAO report highlights several reforms that might make a positive difference, including providing federal assistance for relatives providing permanent homes for foster children."

The GAO report found that a variety of factors contribute to the disproportionate number of African American children in foster care, including poverty (which often reduces access to supportive services for families), racial bias in the reporting of neglect and abuse, and limited permanent placement options. 

“A child’s need for a permanent home is not dictated by the color of his or her skin.  And yet this report clearly confirms that African American children are much more likely to be stuck in foster care limbo than other children," said Representative Jim McDermott, the Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, which has jurisdiction over the foster care system. “We should evaluate GAO’s suggested remedies and then build a consensus for action."

The report specifically recommended that Congress amend federal law to provide federal reimbursement for legal guardianship, similar to that currently provided for adoption.  Such guardianship payments would go to relatives who want to permanently care for a child but may find it difficult to adopt because they do not want to formally terminate the parental rights of their kin.  According to the GAO, African American children are more likely to be placed with relatives while in foster care than White children.

To read a copy of the GAO report, click here.
To learn more about what the Ways and Means Committee is doing about foster care issues, click here.