Focus on the Figures: First Entries into Foster Care, by Race

Every other week, The Chronicle of Social Change will feature one key indicator from Kidsdata, which offers comprehensive data about the health and well being of children across California.

The rate of first entry to foster care is a figure often used to gauge the general proportion of children from different racial and ethnic backgrounds who are entering foster care. The rate is almost always a per-1,000 calculation, meaning “out of one thousand children, of any race, in the specified population.”

In California, African-American and American Indian/Alaska Native children had the highest three-year average rate of foster care entry (8.2 and 8.3 per 1,000, respectively) for the period 2010-2012. This compares to 2.6 for Latino, 2.6 for white, and 0.7 for Asian/Pacific Islander children during the same period.


How does this compare to national figures? A somewhat dated study from Chapin Hall suggests that California’s entry numbers are more disproportionate, and also higher for all children.

According to “Racial Disparity in Foster Care Admissions,” which Chapin Hall published in 2007, African-American children entered foster care at a rate of 4.5 per 1,000 in 2005, nearly two-and-a-half times the rate of white children (1.9). It is worth noting that parity was improving at the time of the report: The rate for African-American children had declined 5 percent since 2000, and the rate for white children had increased 17 percent.

The more recent California data reflects an entry rate for African-American children that is nearly double the rate in Chapin Hall’s national study.

To learn more about racial disproportionality and disparities in child welfare, see the Child Welfare Information Gateway and a recent synthesis of research on the issue.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
About John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change 1210 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at

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