SAN ANTONIO – Throughout the child welfare sector, experts say children of color have worse outcomes in the system when it comes to placement and adoption.
“There’s something wrong within the system that’s causing these children of color to be removed more often and not placed,” said Sherri Y. Simmons-Horton, a researcher and University of Texas at San Antonio professor.
Simmons, who sits on the Texas Advisory Committee on Promoting Adoption of Minority Children, said in Bexar County, Hispanic children wait the longest for adoption, followed closely by Black children.
The extreme disparities have experts like Simmons reviewing parts of the system in desperate need of change.
“How decisions are made from the bench, how decisions are made when we’re doing a removal, how decisions are made when we’re matching families — it becomes those very individual decisions that start to add up,” Simmons said.
She believes a big factor has to do with beefing up kinship programs that prioritize placing removed children with relatives or people connected to the family, like a step-parent or godparent.
“Right now, the State of Texas has done a really great job of engaging with kinship programs reducing disparities for Black and Hispanic children,” Simmons said. “It was only around 2007 that they started providing structured resources to relatives and kinship families who would be able to take children if they have the resource support they need — resource for school clothes, beds, those types of things.”
Still, disparities remain widespread.
It’s such a big issue that there have been two state bills proposed this session. House Bill 155 and Senate Bill 75 request the state use existing funds to “establish an office of minority statistics and engagement” to “identify the causes of disproportionality and develop recommendations.”
Simmons said the rooted disparities also have to do with both systematic and unintentional bias of system employees, families, fostering and adopting.
De’Lishia Noland and her husband have three children — two adopted 3-year-old boys and a 1-year-old biological daughter.
Their adopted boys are Hispanic and Black, the two specific types of children that have historically and currently need adoption the most.
“There’s quite a bit of history about the Hispanic and the African American culture and the level of trauma and generational trauma that has been going on for ages,” Noland said.
Noland knows about generational trauma. She works at the Children’s Shelter as a foster parent recruiter.
“If you are more comfortable with a child that looks like you, that is totally fine. That’s a normal feeling,” Noland said. “I can also say if you want to give your love and hope and support to a child who doesn’t look like you, that’s an opportunity to learn.”
Noland talks a lot about her Hispanic son, who looks different than her.
“Maybe one day that will encourage someone else to adopt a little boy that looks like him,” Noland said.
Simmons said she hopes to help create a cycle of public education, understanding and love.
“Being able to diminish some of the bias comes from people having more information, people being able to make informed decisions about who these kids are instead of painting a broad brush,” Simmons said. “Not saying if it’s just black and brown children, there must be something wrong with them. No. Talk to people. Get information. You don’t have to make a decision to foster or adopt right away. Come and volunteer, send clothes to them, come to events.”