|For Immediate Release
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Too Poor to Parent? Ms. feature shows why black children are twice as likely to enter U.S. foster care as white children.
Poverty is not being adequately addressed.
The spring issue of Ms. magazine-on newsstands 4/29/08 -features an eye-opening report on the U.S. foster care system. Author Gaylynn Burroughs, a public defender in the Bronx who represents parents accused of child neglect, explains why black children are the most overrepresented demographic in foster care. While black children make up only 15 percent of the general child population, they comprise 34 percent of those in foster care.
Burroughs concludes that poverty is the leading cause of black children being taken away from their parents. Blacks are four times more likely than other ethnic groups to live in poverty. Yet when state workers remove black children from their homes, they rarely cite poverty as the risk factor; instead, mothers are simply told they've neglected their children by failing to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, education or medical care.
"The failure is always personal," writes Burroughs, "and these mothers and children are almost always made to suffer individually for the consequences of one of the United States ' most pressing social problems."
Federal spending for foster care has skyrocketed, but lack of spending for family-preservation services along with changes in federal antipoverty policies are making it more difficult for families struggling to keep their children. The effect of welfare reform for some women has been a low-paying job or unemployment, coupled with the loss of a government safety net. Such women continue to lose their children because of the predictable consequences of poverty, such as lack of health care and inadequate housing.
"Until this disparity in funding and services is addressed, and until this country comes to terms with its culpability in allowing widespread poverty to exist, poor black mothers will continue to lose their children to the state," writes Burroughs. "And we will continue to label these women 'bad mothers' to assuage our own guilt."
Note to editors: Author Gaylynn Burroughs is available for interviews.