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Blacks stay longer in Texas foster care

Black children in Texas stay in foster care wait longer than white or Hispanic children.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Black children in Texas stay in foster care significantly longer, are less likely to be reunited with their families and wait longer for adoption than white or Hispanic children, a study showed.

Black families were no more likely than white families to have a child removed from the home, when researchers accounted for factors such as household income, the age of the victim and the source of the allegation, according to the study conducted by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees the Department of Family and Protective Services.

But because black children leave the system more slowly, they make up a disproportionately large percentage of the foster care population, even when those other factors are considered, according to the study, which was released Monday.

Joyce James, the top administrator for child protective services, which falls under state HHS and runs the foster care system, said she'd like to see more research on the reasons for the differences.

"We'd certainly like to look at are we as an agency sensitive to the different ethnicities of people that we work with and do we need additional training to ensure we are responding adequately to the families," she said.

The findings mirror national statistics. The Texas Legislature requested the study and ordered an overhaul of CPS last spring after several high-profile child homicides involving families where caseworkers investigated parents but left the children in their care.

The researchers found poverty was significant, with more than 60 percent of all child removals in Texas involving families making about $10,000 or less a year.

Scott McCown, a former judge, said the state could solve the problems identified in the study by tackling poverty before it leads to neglect.

"When you have programs that are designed to reach at-risk kids, you're already working at the edge of the waterfall," said McCown, who now leads a policy center that advocates more social-program spending. "You want to be working way upstream to divert kids from ever landing in the river to begin with."

The report called for better recruitment of foster and adoptive parents and collaboration with organizations that provide job training, GED classes and grants for higher education.