Focus on the Figures: Race and Entry into Foster Care

Every other week, The Chronicle of Social Change features one key indicator from, 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.”

We published the most recent figures on this data point last year. We run this here to reflect the fact that, despite efforts to address disproportionality in the child welfare system, certain minority groups consistently have the highest rates of entry into care.

The data is broken into three-year sets to establish periodic rates:


In California, African-American and American Indian 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.

As the chart above shows, the rate for African-American children has not wavered much since 1998, sliding down from a peak of 9.3 to 8.2. American Indian youth already had the second-highest rate on entry in 1998-2000 (at 4.4), but it has since nearly doubled to 8.3 for 2010-2012.

This compares to current rates of 2.6 for Latino, 2.6 for white, and 0.7 for Asian/Pacific Islander children during the current period, which all have barely changed since 1998-2000.

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

John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change

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