New study aims to find why Black children reenter foster care system at higher rate

Getting kids back to their families

Getting kids back to their families

State leaders are launching a study to figure out why African American and Black children reenter the foster care system in Minnesota at a disproportionate rate.

Local leaders have seen the effects of reentering the foster care system firsthand.

Twenty years ago, Tenelle Thomas chose her forever family. She adopted three girls and one boy, who she calls her own.

“Kids need to be loved. They need support. They need permanency,” Thomas said.

But before the girls met Thomas, she said their lives were far from stable.

“They were in shelter positions and different foster homes. They were split up,” Thomas said.

Her daughters reentered the foster care system three times.

“It’s a hurtful place to be, not knowing what’s going to happen next,” she said.

At home and at work with Evolve Family Services, Thomas is focused on building stability within families in the child welfare system through the UMOJA program. The programming focuses on parenting, supporting and advocating for Black youth in the foster care system.

The federal standard states less than 8.1% of children should reenter foster care, according to Minnesota Judicial Branch officials. According to 2021 state data, in Minnesota, 12% of kids reentered the system, which exceeds the federal standard by 4%.

Examining the data by race, African American and Black children reentered the system at about 19%.

“The reentry of African American and Black children into foster care is an area in which Minnesota could definitely improve,” said Judy Peterson, a Minnesota Judicial Branch programs analyst.

Through the Children’s Justice Initiative, the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Minnesota Judicial Branch are organizing meetings and working to identify the root causes of this disparity.

The end goal is to come up with solutions on how to fix it.

“The goal is always that kids reunify with that family because we know from research that kids do best with their families,” Peterson said.

Thomas knows from experience.

She was a foster kid growing up, and it drives her passion to improve the system today.

“We want to help those families to be able to be successful so that that reentry doesn’t happen, and we can bring those numbers down across the board,” she said.

State leaders said they want to hear from people in the most impacted communities and other stakeholders to help identify why this is happening, including:

  • Parents and young adults with lived experience.
  • Foster families.
  • School administration, such as decision-makers, social workers, nurses and resource officers.
  • Health care professionals.
  • Law enforcement specializing in child welfare.
  • Child protection stakeholders, such as county attorneys, attorneys for parents and children and guardians ad litem.

Introductory meetings will be held virtually in June and participants will learn about the process and what to expect, Peterson explained.

Contact with any questions.