February is Black History Month and as such, SOS Illinois wants to highlight the significance of this month to children in Illinois foster care. The purpose of Black History Month is to celebrate the roles that various African American and Black individuals have played in the United States and to remember the legacy and continuing contributions of the black community in U.S. history.
The common narrative of the black community in America has been one of fighting to overcome barriers, breaking through boundaries, advocating for justice and fairness, and emerging as beacons of hope despite adversity. SOS Illinois believes that these narratives are important for all children in foster care to recognize, especially children of color.
The Disproportional Rates of Black Children in Illinois Foster Care
As part of recognizing Black History Month, it is our responsibility as a foster care agency to call to attention the disproportional rates of black children in Illinois foster care and beyond. Research has shown that “poor and racial and ethnic minority children and their families are disproportionately reported, labeled, and mandated into the child welfare system” (Horton, 1).
While the city of Chicago boasts a diverse population of 38.6% Black, 37.9% White, and 19.6% Hispanic, the population of the Illinois foster care system is disproportionally black. In fact, African American children make up approximately 33% of children in foster care nationwide, but only 15% of the national child population. Additionally, 84% of the children that SOS Illinois serves in our Villages are African American/Black.
Why Is There Such Racial Disproportion in Foster Care?
There are several systematic issues, such as the zoning of neighborhoods and the exodus of non-poor white families from the city to the suburbs, that have historically caused racial segregation, concentrated poverty, and drug and substance abuse in the inner-city. Certain zoning laws combined with white flight from the city resulted in many inner-city neighborhoods becoming primarily black neighborhoods with few resources, causing the cycle of poverty to continue.
This cycle of poverty, as we have written about previously on our blog, is a major contributor to the cycle of national and Illinois foster care, causing children in foster care to reach adulthood without the resources needed to thrive. The few opportunities offered to people living in neighborhoods marked by poverty makes it difficult to offer the best care to children. As a result, adults in these communities often face barriers in parenting, making their children vulnerable to entering the foster care system. As such, we see the cycle perpetuate and a disproportional rate of children of color, especially children who are African American, enter the Illinois foster care system.
At SOS Illinois, we believe it’s important to recognize that there are larger systems at play that are affecting why many black children are ending up in foster care. Acknowledging these systematic barriers is the first step in breaking this cycle.
Creating a Community of Hope for Children in Foster Care
Our unique model at SOS Illinois prioritizes and values diversity, education, wellness, and opportunity. We believe that these values present a different and more empowering narrative for children in foster care. We aim to create a community of hope and a cycle of opportunity so that successful futures may be realized. SOS Illinois communities are mindful in acting with culture sensitivity and affirming cultural differences, allowing the children in our care to celebrate diversity and individuality as they realize that they each have a story to tell.
Overcoming Restrictive Narratives and Celebrating Black History Month
Celebrating the history, legacy, and current impact of Black Americans across industries and communities presents a hopeful narrative for black children in foster care who may not have the stability of permanent role models while they are in care. Help celebrate Black History Month with SOS Illinois by donating to the work we are doing in helping to create a better future for children in foster care.