Thursday, May 3, 2007

African American Foster Youth Are Being Adopted

By Mary Ford, NACAC research associate

It is often assumed that African American children are less likely to be adopted. Although this is not true, African American children are adopted at a slower pace than other children. If one looks at longitudinal data carefully, African American children are more likely to be adopted than other children, and this increased likelihood coincides with the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA).

According to a 2006 article by Fred Wulczyn and colleagues, of almost 400,000 children who first entered foster care in six states between 1990 and 2002, 24 percent of African American children were eventually adopted, compared to 16 percent of white or Latino children. However, it took longer for these adoptions to occur. Further, the data show that children from urban areas who were placed with relatives were adopted at a higher rate (26 percent) than those placed in other forms of care. (See previous posts for more information on relatives as permanency resources for foster children. Learn more about NACAC's position on relative care.)

Wulczyn, in a 2003 article, suggests that “the adoption cycle for a given cohort may take up to 10 years to complete, and that African American children are in fact more likely to be adopted.”

ASFA provides states with incentives to find adoptive families for foster children and prioritizes child safety in all decisions concerning family preservation and reunification. Wulczyn and colleagues note that state policies implemented after ASFA (though they vary a lot) appear to have given inducement to pursuing adoption for more foster children.

However, the data also reveal that the growth in the rate of adoption for African American children may be connected to the decline in family reunification during the decade between 1990 and 2000. Wulczyn and colleagues plan to study the effects of ASFA on the process of family reunification in upcoming research.

To increase public child welfare accountability and accuracy—and to reveal important outcomes for children like those studied by Wulczyn and his colleagues—NACAC believes the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) process and AFCARS (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System) should be changed to use longitudinal data, In addition, the federal government should continue to help states build their accountability systems by maintaining the federal match for State Automated Child welfare Systems.

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