Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS)
Governor Fletcher Announces Project Targeting Racial Disparity

Press Release Date:  Tuesday, April 03, 2007  
Contact Information:  Anya Armes Weber, (502) 564-6180 or Vikki Franklin, (502) 564-7042  


Governor Ernie Fletcher and leaders from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) today announced a comprehensive project to target racial disproportionality in the child welfare system. The child welfare system includes the community, its people and systems that report abuse and neglect to child protective services and those that respond and provide services.

The project targets 11 counties where African-American children are represented in state foster care at more than one and a half times the census rate.

“We are concerned about the high representation of African-Americans in out-of-home care,” Governor Fletcher said. “By studying this inequity and mapping a course to address it, we can ensure that more families are able to improve their home lives and ultimately stay together.”

The Community, Race and Child Welfare Initiative is the result of a two-year effort conducted by the Jefferson Service Region and the Cabinet’s Office of Quality Management.

“The significant number of minority children in the child welfare system is a national concern,” CHFS Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell said. “Although this is a complex issue, we are already taking many positive steps to educate staff and community partners to dispel the problem.”

To research the disparity, CHFS has worked closely with the nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private, national organization that supports child and family organizations.

The studies show that rates of abuse referrals and substantiations and out-of-home care entries for African-American children are higher than would be expected based on state census numbers.

This is particularly true in larger communities. For example, Anglos make up 77 percent of Jefferson County’s child population. But only 55 percent of referrals to DCBS in Jefferson County involved Anglo children; 41 percent were African-American and 1 percent was Hispanic. And only 43 percent of out-of home care placements involved Anglo children, while 53 percent were African-American and 3 percent were Hispanic.

Tom Emberton Jr., CHFS’ undersecretary for Children and Family Services, said the cabinet will provide cultural competency training for all DCBS staff as one of its first steps.

“In our efforts to keep children safe, we need to be acutely aware of any unintended outcomes for minority families when our studies show their safety risks are the same or even lower than those of Anglo families,” he said. “We will take this opportunity to educate staff in cultural diversity, cultural competency and undoing racism.”

“These changes will help make all of us more aware of the reasons for and consequences of unintentional racism in the human services system,” Emberton said.

CHFS has targeted 11 counties where African-American children are represented in out-of-home care at more than one and a half times the census rates.

The counties are: Boyle, Christian, Daviess, Fayette, Graves, Hardin, Jefferson, Kenton, Madison, McCracken and Warren.

Staff from the People’s Institute, a national group that provides anti-racism training across the country, will lead seminars in the targeted counties, and will offer the workshop several times in Jefferson County. 

The seminars are designed to help participants understand several factors, including the influence of race in determining whether a child is placed in out-of-home care; the factors that affect what services are offered and delivered to black families; and the actual and perceived needs of black families.

The seminars are intended for all human services providers, including community partners, law enforcement, agency contractors and members of local governments. Remaining slots are open to the general public.

For more information on racial disparity and the workshops, log on to http://www.jointheconversation.net/.

“Our struggle for change begins with education,” Emberton said. “We’ll take our message to the communities most affected by this problem.”

Other facets of the plan include expanding the use of parent advocates to mentor families and collaborating with state universities to provide continuing educational opportunities on “How Race Matters.”

Emberton said his office has proposed a 2007 budget of $500,000 to provide for administrative costs, education and community outreach materials, training contracts and data management services for the project.

“This is a necessary investment to make the kind of cultural changes that will ensure we equitably treat all families involved with our community based services,” he said.