When Lutheran Children and Family Services of Illinois first started looking into data on its clients, black children in the state's foster care system had a permanency rate of 4% in 2018, compared to 47% in 2020.
That same year, the length of stay for black children in the state's foster care system dropped by 16%, compared to 16% for white children, according to a new Harvard study.
"We realized that implicit bias and institutional racism were influencing inequitable outcomes for children of color,"Beverly Jones, vice president and COO of LCFS of Illinois, says in a Lutheran Services in America press release.
That's why, after reviewing its own statewide and agency data, LCFS of Illinois focused on training its staff to look at how their biases may contribute to disparate outcomes.
Among other things, LCFS of Illinois focused on training staff to learn and rehearse best practice techniques to improve engagement with families and to utilize those learnings in all familial meetings.
It also focused on working with the judicial system to better navigate court processes and advocate within the courts on behalf of families of color, LGBTQ youth, and other societal biases impacting their clients.
"Looking to the future, there needs to be a shift in focus within the child welfare system from intervention to prevention," Jones said.
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Florence Norman founded Sweet Cavanagh, an award-winning peer-led aftercare social enterprise based in Notting Hill. The company hires women and trains them how to make and design jewelry. However, these women are in the process of recovering from eating disorders and addictions.