Six months ago, I did a TED Talk. It is hard to believe that almost 1 million people have watched it. I’m hoping that those people are more aware of Implicit Bias and have gained an understanding of how dangerous it can be. I presented research that I conducted in New York. The agency involved in the research was the Nassau County Department of Child Protection. This agency convenes a Removal Meeting for every case. They have discussions about the facts collected by the investigator and decide, in that room, if a child is being removed from their parents that day. After realizing how many black children were being removed and placed in foster care, disproportionately, the Director decided to make those removal meetings blind.
This seemingly simple strategy, Blind Removal Meetings, made quite an impact in that county, decreasing the number of black children being placed in foster care by almost 50%.
I receive a lot of emails from people who have seen the TED Talk, asking me how can they bring blind removals to their agencies. Interestingly, agencies that are not exclusive to child protection have also inquired. It is exciting to know that other entities (hospitals, schools and private/nonprofit entities) are also interested in racial equity.
I contributed to a recently published article by the Huffington Post, When schools use child protective services as a weapon against parents. I hope you will read it. It talks about how schools are manipulating parents with child protective services (CPS).
I received an email recently from someone in Minnesota. She was a white woman, and a school guidance counselor and felt that there was racial bias in the decisions relating to which parents get reported to CPS. She also said that often school officials threaten parents with CPS. She said that more black children’s parents are reported than other children and she does not believe it’s because the black parents are more abusive. She asked if I think that Blind Removals could work in a school.
Although the full answer of implementation might be lengthy, the short answer is YES.
I believe that there is always room for blind practices if leaders see that data trends show disparity and disproportionality.
When I was working in child welfare, I distinctly remember a teacher reporting a black mother because her child was unkempt and exhibiting behaviors consistent with a child not being fed (stealing and hoarding food). I met the mother and the child. It turned out that the mother was suffering from depression, she was also under-employed and not receiving the help she needed to be fully functional. Did I think the family needed help? Absolutely Yes. Did I think the mother should have been reported to us for child abuse? No.
I went into her home and walked through every room. Opened up every cabinet. And asked her all types of questions about her parenting. This level of scrutiny has a place for certain situations but, to me, it had no place there.
My research focused on blind removals of children from their homes. But, what about every other decision making point? What about the decisions that are made before the report hits the caseworker’s desk? Could that teacher have convened a small meeting with other teachers and administrators to talk about the child’s behavior and then determine if CPS was necessary? Could the school have talked to mom first? (The mother reported that the school never reached out to her prior to filing a report).
I do believe my work is important, but through countless emails and conversations over the past 6 months… it’s becoming more and more apparent that improving bias within the child protection system is not enough, because so many other systems are tangentially connected.
My plan is to focus on child welfare. But what about you?
There has to be a broader and more comprehensive racial equity agenda and I hope you will join in.
I’d also love to hear about your work. Feel free to comment below or connect with me on social media.
I will be writing more blogs about how this work can be infused into other systems. Enter your email (to the right) and follow my blog to get alerted whenever I post.