Showing posts with label children of color and disproportionately rates in foster care.. Show all posts
Showing posts with label children of color and disproportionately rates in foster care.. Show all posts

Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Disparaging Effects of Implicit Bias

Throughout our lives, we developed beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes that are misinformed and stereotypical. This incorrect information can impact our perceptions and thoughts about individuals and things. These misconceptions are developed because of the information we received from family and through life experiences. This unconscious behavior is called implicit Bias.  These preconceptions and actions are unintentional and done without cognizance.

Implicit Bias can affect our evaluations and opinions of others. It can also negatively impact our decisions and cause victims to suppress the implicit attitudes perpetrated against them. This behavior can also adversely influence our ability to be open-minded and make informed assessments.

In the child welfare agency, Implicit Bias has impacted families of color. Research has shown the prevalence of racial overrepresentation of Black, Latino, and Native families who have entered the child welfare system.  All have more substantiated cases than White families.    

Studies show that racial disparities in child welfare transpire among families of color on every case process level. It is seen during the social worker's initial assessment of the families until the case is terminated.

The usual process with child welfare begins when a call is received suspecting child abuse. This prompts an investigation. The child welfare worker will meet with the family to assess and establish whether these accusations are true.  During this process, the worker decides whether the allegations are unproven or are confirmed.  If the allegations are accurate, then a child welfare case will be opened for further assistance and monitoring.

During the initial investigation, the worker does several assessments to determine the possibility of current, repeated, or potential child abuse. Families that are evaluated at a low-mild chance of child endangerment can be referred to less invasive services. This means that the families would not have to be monitored by the court system. They also can be connected to a community agency that would provide them with an array of resources to meet their need.

During the worker's assessment, it can also be determined whether children can remain with their parents or be removed.

There are those situations where it is evident child welfare services need to intervene in families' lives. In this case, some form of child abuse or neglect was apparent.  However, there is an occurrence of cases where child abuse or neglect may not be that clear.  This is when the social worker must decide on the family's outcome. This is also where Implicit Bias could be a contributing factor, especially when workers do not recognize their biases.

In my previous blog, I explained how I worked with a mother who did everything possible to get her children back. The supervisor insisted that basically, I uncover a shortcoming with this mother to inhibit her from reunifying with her children. My co-workers suggested this supervisor adopted previous practices where children from specific environments were not returned home for some reason. Looking back on this situation and other shared experiences, I see this as Implicit Bias.  This family was of color and from a low socioeconomic background.  The parent complied with all required services and more. However, the supervisor's suggestion was unnecessary and unfair.

As a child welfare social worker, I have witnessed most families served were Black and Latino. I observed several instances of Implicit Bias among co-workers. There are several occurrences where investigative social workers are deceptive when interviewing the families for possible neglect. They will ask the parents a series of questions regarding their past and present lifestyle. It may be a situation where a report was made to CPS indicating the parents were arguing around the children.

The investigator questions casually if the parent used drugs or alcohol.

The parents may disclose they previously smoked marijuana. The worker will make a case that the parents are current drug users.

I have seen this and other similar examples in many case situations among minority families. 

There was also a situation where I received 2 new cases that involved working with young black women. The case was transferred to me because the previous worker, who was of a different race, failed to provide the young women with the needed services. It was explained that the worker had a habit of focusing more on his male clients and less on the women.

Another example was a worker who claimed he did not connect with a black male client. He stated that the young man looked like a "Gang Banger."

Implicit Bias has been observed with supervisors and managers. An example involved the female black workers being reprimanded for sharing their knowledge about the job and not being submissive to a male supervisor of a different race.

Implicit Bias could be alleviated if culturally appropriate guidelines, measures, and practices were enforced.  These policies need to be utilized by managers as well as staff. This will encourage staff to change or become aware of their attitudes.

The bottom line is that it is crucial to first acknowledge the problem before the issues can be addressed.



Beniwal, R. (n.d.). Implicit Bias in Child Welfare ... - OpenCommons@UConn.

Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity | Center for the Study of Social Policy. (n.d.). Implicit Racial Bias 101: Exploring Implicit Bias in Child Protection.

Lee, J., Ackerman-Brimberg, M., & Bell, Z. (2016, December 23). Implicit Bias in the Child Welfare, Education and Mental Health Systems. National Center for Youth Law.

Merritt, D. H. (n.d.). How Do Families Experience and Interact with CPS? - Darcey H. Merritt, 2020. SAGE Journals.

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