Blind Removal Meetings — What are they?

Transforming child welfare by taking race out of the equation via www.jessicaprycephd.com

The intractable issues of racism and discrimination have been persistent in our country and throughout the world. Racism has found its way into nearly every crevice of society.

We have read about bias in the criminal justice system, we have witnessed the subjectivity within interactions with law enforcement, we’ve seen the stark differences in healthcare access and outcomes, and we’ve learned of the differences in our foster care system. Will racism end? Likely not. Racism is deeply systemic and the likelihood that it will some day be eradicated seems implausible. Perhaps the better strategy is to nullify the impact of racism, through blind procedures.

Racial disparity is defined as, the unequal treatment of certain subgroups. Racial disproportionality is defined as, the instance when certain subgroups are over — or underrepresented at levels that are disproportionate to their numbers in the overall population.

Child protective service authorities have been taking custody of black children at shockingly high rates, and this is not a new phenomenon. Scholars like, Andrew Billingsley, Jeanne Giovannoni, Dorothy Roberts, and Emma Ketteringham have written on this topic from multiple perspectives. Some literary contributions on the subject have dated back to 50 years ago.

Blind Removal Meetings are a new strategy created by the Director of Child Welfare in Nassau County, New York. Through partnership with the Office of Children and Family Services, Nassau County was awarded a Disproportionate Minority Representation (DMR)Grant. With that funding, Nassau County actively engaged in efforts to reduce the disparities for black children in out-of-home placement decisions (foster care decisions). A research study examined Nassau County’s efforts and discovered the implementation of a Blind Removal Process, which is a committee of child welfare professionals who convene to determine if a child(ren) will be removed from their family home. What makes it a blind removal, is that the case worker who has already seen the family and conducted an initial assessment of risk will present the facts of the case but never mention demographics or neighborhood. All identifiable information on the case file is removed and the discussion focuses on what has occurred, relevant history, and family capacity and strength. After the presentation of the case, the committee makes a recommendation regarding whether the children should be removed from the family.

Tracking this process over five years rendered pretty staggering results. The rates started at 55.5% of black children being removed from their homes, and it went down to 29%.

There is much more research that is needed on this blind removal process. How did this process impact services that are provided to families? How did it impact re-entry rates? Even with the research that is yet to be conducted, the decrease in numbers of black children being removed from their family home is certainly something to be applauded.

Nassau County has emerged as a leader, but there is still work to be done. Current research suggests that when making decisions with such high stakes, the necessity of demographic and neighborhood information has been brought into question.

Do we need to know the race of the family or where they live in order to decide if a child is removed from their home and placed in foster care?

There is a need for more research on blind removals to answer that question definitively. But, right now, research suggests that we don’t.

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Watch this TED Talk on Blind Removal Meetings.