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The Disenfranchisement of Black Foster Youth []


By Kenyon Lee Whitman and Brianna M. Harvey, The Imprint, December 2, 2020

Black foster youth are caught in a nexus of incarceration which is formed by their engagement with child welfare, education and policing. Our recent brief published by UCLA’s Black Male Institute on Los Angeles County public schools serves to elucidate these grim realities.

California public schools educate over 46,000 K-12 students in foster care, and about a third of them attend Los Angeles County public schools. An analysis of 2018-2019 data from the California Department of Education shows that 43% of all Black foster youth students in California are attending public schools in L.A. County. With such a dense population of Black foster youth attending the county’s public schools, it is important to interrogate and address the ways they are being harmed. Educators, social workers and members of the public have a duty to serve and support foster youth.

Research shows that Black foster youth are being criminalized at every level by their disproportionate experiences with punitive disciplinary sanctions within schools and overrepresentation in the juvenile detention facilities. Emerging research shows that Black foster youth are more likely than their peers of other races to crossover to the juvenile legal system making them more likely to be incarcerated as adults. Black foster youth are unable to escape the carceral traps that come with schooling and engagement with the child welfare system.

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