Minnesota faces complaint over alleged unfair treatment of Black children and families in its child welfare system

Minnesota faces complaint over alleged unfair treatment of Black children and families in its child welfare system - Business and Finance - News

NAACP and Children’s Rights File Discrimination Complaint Against Minnesota over Child Welfare System

The Minneapolis Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Children’s Rights, an advocacy group, have filed a formal complaint with the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) against the state of Minnesota. The complaint alleges that the state’s child welfare system discriminates against Black children and families in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, warranting an investigation into potential Title VI violations.

Alleged Discrimination against Black Families in Minnesota’s Child Welfare System

Minnesota received over $232 million in federal funding for child protection agencies in 2020, making it a recipient of Title VI provisions under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The complaint asserts that Minnesota’s child welfare agency must provide non-discriminatory services when fulfilling their responsibilities to protect the children and families they serve.

Pattern of Discrimination Against Black Families

Between 2019 and 2021, mandated reporters in schools, law enforcement, and social services made a higher percentage of reports about Black children than white children across Minnesota and in Hennepin and Ramsey counties. Although these counties have significantly larger White populations (69.9% for Hennepin County and 63.6% for Ramsey County), Black children made up a disproportionate percentage of reports, with Hennepin County reporting 53% and Ramsey County reporting 41-46%, compared to less than 20% for white children in the same neglect reports.

Unequal Treatment of Families

Cases involving Black children are more likely to result in investigations, assessments, removal, and family separation than cases involving white children. In Minnesota, between 2019 and 2021, child welfare agencies removed Black children from their homes at a disproportionate rate compared to state and national trends. Hennepin County saw removal percentages ranging from 33% to 38%, while Ramsey County reported 33-37%, versus 14-15% statewide and 23-24% nationally.

Addressing the Discrimination

Minnesota’s Department of Human Services (DHS) acknowledged receiving the complaint and stated that they are committed to addressing disparities in the child welfare system. In response, a DHS spokesperson commented that “We are working to strengthen the child protection system and address disparities,” collaborating with local communities to provide supports for families and ensure their children grow up in safe, healthy, and nurturing environments.

The Role of HHS Office for Civil Rights

As of now, HHS Office for Civil Rights is reviewing the complaint and declining further comment while respecting the potential investigation. NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson expressed that it’s up to HHS Office for Civil Rights to conduct a thorough examination of the situation, determine the extent of the issue, and implement appropriate remedies to protect affected children and families from disproportionate use of federal dollars.

Ending Discriminatory Child Separations

Shereen White, Director of Advocacy and Policy at Children’s Rights, emphasized the need to end child separations based on race or poverty rather than actual harm to children. Every 2.5 minutes, a US child is removed from their family and placed into foster care, often due to reasons related to skin color or poverty rather than causing harm to their children. White pointed out the devastating impact of discriminatory use of ’emergency removals’ and safety assessment tools on Black families in Minnesota.

The Importance of Title VI Compliance

Title VI provisions under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit racial, color, or national origin discrimination in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. Minnesota’s child welfare agency is required to provide non-discriminatory services when fulfilling their responsibilities of protecting children and families, as the federal funding they receive makes them subject to Title VI regulations.