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A Social Injustice: The Effects of Social Inequalities in Foster Care and Child Welfare

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As an adult, people that I encounter in my everyday life often wonder how I got to be the person that I am today - an understanding, open-minded individual who does not look down upon anyone that is less fortunate than I am and who does not look to "more" fortunate individuals as role models. When I am asked how I got to be so understanding, I answer giving credit to my parents' value system they instilled in me as well as acknowledging their duties as public servants in the City of New York. My father was a police officer who worked in a number of precincts in some of the worst, crime ridden areas of Brooklyn and my mother worked for the Department of Social Services in Child Welfare and the Bureau of Public Assistance, initially as a case-worker, in Brooklyn as well. It was because of their experiences in the "field" and interacting with those less fortunate then we were that I gained a certain level of knowledge and understanding of the unfortunate mishaps of people of my culture and the inequalities inflicted upon the black community. Yet the most influential aspects of my knowledge came from the exposure my mother had through working for the City of New York's child welfare system and the unfair treatments that her clients endured. As a result I will discuss the affects of social, economic and racial inequalities suffered by her clients and the impact it has had on their children's education.

During my studies in this class, we have discussed many issues in society that affects children apart of education systems across America. After reading through our assigned texts so far, I have had time to reflect upon and add to the opinions discussed in class as far as access, gender, opportunity and particularly inequalities in today's society and how they affect our children today. The main text that influenced most of my opinions so far is David Nasaw's book "Schooled to Order" - which discusses the history of the public school system here in America. As shown through my reaction papers and discussions in class, I felt Nasaw's theories and opinions were reflective of the elitist, biased and prejudiced attitudes towards the working poor. I believed that people in our society today believe that unless you come from a certain lineage, pedigree, or mass amounts of money that the individual lacks a certain level of class and therefore would not be successful adults. Unfortunately, it has been my opinion that more often than not it has been blacks as well as other "minorities" that have been the most affected by these attitudes. Overall, I was disgusted mostly by Nasaw's book in that it not only did it not properly discuss the effects these prejudiced attitudes had on other cultural groups other than the "Caucasian" population here in the United States, but also his neglect for addressing the issue of blacks receiving and continuing their education in this country, and the racist/ bigoted ideas that prevented them from receiving equal rights for education.

As a result of reading Nasaw's text, I have proceeded in researching other aspects of academic inequalities concerning Black and Latino children here in America. I have discovered that an area that seems to be evident of social, economic and racial inequalities is the child welfare system - i.e. foster care here in New York City. Through my own research, and discussions with my mother, I have discovered key elements about the current foster care system:

1. African-American children make-up the largest proportion of children in foster care.

2. There is an unequal representation of children of color in foster care in which Black and Latino families are most likely reported for abuse and their children removed from the home.

3. Black and Latino children tend to stay in the foster care system longer

4. Societal and family problems such as poverty, drug/physical abuse, and parental incarceration have been some of the key factors that have led to children's involvement in the foster system.

Poverty and poverty-related challenges, structural inequality, and racially biased decisions are some of the key factors that have contributed to the unequal representation of minority children in child welfare. Limited substance abuse and other health services in "urban" communities are examples of structural inequalities that result in differential treatment based on race and social class. More often than not these are neighborhoods that include public schools that suffer from the same inequalities as well - in which many of these children and parents are exposed to. From an individuals' perspective of growing up in the foster care system, naturally the experience is detrimental and emotionally traumatic that is associated with developmental problems and low educational achievement. It is from this viewpoint that I conducted my interview with my mother, Anne S. Henry, who has had years of social service experience. Anne S. Henry has achieved 30 years of work experience with the City of New York Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services and the Bureau of Public Assistance. Leaving New York City civil service as Foster Care Director in 1994, she began work as an Executive Assistant Foster Care Director for a private child welfare agency in which she resigned in 2000. She now works as an Area Administrator for a not-for-profit agency, the Association for Black Social Workers, where the main agenda of her agency focuses on finding permanent adoptive homes for children placed in to foster care. The following is the conducted interview I performed concerning social, racial and economic inequalities in our society in which ways her clients, past and present, have been affected.

Interview: Anne S. Henry, Area Administrator for the Association of Black Social Workers, a Non-

Profit Organization

Q: As a child protective service worker, what are the birth parents attitudes towards their child's/

children's education?

A: "Most of the time the results were varied, some parents show an interest in their children excelling in school and some didn't. We found that many of the clients were involved in drugs and lost focus of what was important in their lives and their children's lives because the drugs had taken over. Those persons that were not involved in drugs, they were struggling..... lots of times what was considered neglect.... it was neglectful simply because people did not have enough money to make ends meet and they might not have paid rent, they might have been on the verge of losing their



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