Using Institutional Analysis to Examine the Systemic Sources of Racial Disproportionality and Disparity: A Case Example.

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From: Child Welfare(Vol. 100, Issue 2)
Publisher: Child Welfare League of America, Inc.
Document Type: Report
Length: 8,531 words
Lexile Measure: 1470L

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This study sought to understand structural factors impacting lower and slower reunification among Black families involved in the child welfare system. Using Institutional Analysis framework, we present findings from case record reviews (n = 15) and qualitative interviews with 58 child welfare stakeholders. Results show seven critical themes that demonstrate how the system was organized to the detriment of Black families. This article voices the lived experiences of Black parents; identifies actionable changes to policies, procedures, and practice; and outlines strategies for holding institutions accountable for restructuring the child welfare system toward racial equity.

Racial disproportionality and racial disparities in child welfare are significant and longstanding. While Black children represented 15.1% of the national child population in 2018, they made up 23.5% of those entering foster care and 25.2% of those in foster care (Puzzanchera & Taylor, 2020). State-level data revealed disparities in key child welfare outcomes. For example, placement stability was lower for Black children even when accounting for other factors such as age and trauma symptoms (Clark et al., 2020). Also, reunification of Black families occurred at lower and slower rates as compared to their White counterparts in foster care (Akin et al., 2019). At the center of the issue lie many Black and Brown families directly and indirectly injured by a system that upholds and perpetuates racial inequities. Many Black families first experience institutionalization by the child welfare system through hyper-surveillance, deficit-based investigations, and discriminatory policies and procedures, a first form of policing Black bodies. The power the child welfare system has to control Black families is substantial and damaging considering the insidious nature of institutional racism and ethnic biases. To address racial disproportionality and disparities, government and social welfare organizations have adopted various methodologies. However, more knowledge is needed to provide exemplars for the field and establish best practices and policies for eliminating racial disparities in child welfare.

The purpose of this paper is to raise the experiences of Black families involved with the child welfare system, highlight how these families encounter challenges in the system stemming from structural and systemic bias, and situate their knowledge of the child welfare system as expertise that can guide systemic change. To this end, we began this process by seeking the expertise of the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) to train our research team in Institutional Analysis (IA), which is a diagnostic process for identifying organizational and policy sources of disparate outcomes for specific populations (Weber & Morrison, 2015). Below, we describe how we utilized and diverged from the IA methodology. While this paper centers the insights of Black families with lived experience of child welfare systems, we explore the narratives of multiple forms of qualitative data, including case record review; document review of policies and forms; interviews and focus groups with a wide range of stakeholders, including Black parents with lived experience of child welfare systems, frontline workers, supervisors, trainers, administrators, foster parents, attorneys, and judges; community mapping of services; and, field notes from workgroup...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A698841080