Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Lanesskog, Deirdre



African American children are detained at quadruple the rate in comparison to other ethnic groups within the child welfare system. This overrepresentation has been a controversial topic for decades. This study presents caseworkers’ perceptions as to the reasons for the disproportionality.

The literature review revealed that African American families have unequal access to resources and opportunities and outcomes. That is, their length of stay in foster care is prolonged and the reunification process is also longer.

This qualitative study involved face-to-face interviews with 12 caseworkers with past and current experience in two California county child welfare agencies. The interview guide included open-ended questions.

The results of this study identified common themes such as racial bias, poverty, cultural insensitivity and incompetence, high caseloads and lack of cultural training, and their contribution to the disproportionality of African American children in child welfare.

This study identified the need for competency training of social workers to address their biases and to use the strengths-based approach to reduce the overrepresentation of children of color.

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Social Work Commons