Oregon’s Black Youth, Foster Care

Oregon’s persistent overrepresentation of Native American and Black children in foster care, despite the overall decline in children in care, suggests that Oregon’s fast-growing share of children in Asian, Pacific Islander and Latino families might underlie the state’s recent successes at keeping more children with their families. Native American and Black children have consistently made up about 1.6% and 3% of Oregon’s child population since 2006, although the percentage of children who are Black is getting closer to 4%.

Sahaan McKelvey, who works at the African American family-serving nonprofit, said the state made an important change in 2010 with the start of in-home safety and reunification services. Oregon Child Welfare and local adoption agencies are reporting an increase in the number of families interested in adopting children of color. Children of color accounted for 200 of the adoptions, an increase of 57 from 2018. The largest ethnic minority group represented in overall adoptions was Hispanic children, accounting for 16%, followed by Black children, at 5%. The majority of Oregon adoptions, 73%, were white children.

The statistics reveal Black children have an average 36-month “length of stay” in foster care before they are adopted or reunified or otherwise exit the system. Additionally sources like, Sahaan McKelvey, director of restoration and identification at Self Enhancement Inc. in Portland, exists to serve Black children and families, has observed the state’s handling of child welfare cases for a decade. The organization contracts with the state to provide child mentoring and parent education and support services.

Samantha Stephens, a member of the group Oregon Foster Youth Connection and an advisory panel working to improve juvenile courts, noted that thanks to a law passed earlier this year, the state will create a permanent Child Welfare Equity Committee in 2022 to suggest actions the state could take to more equitably serve children and families. “There are not enough (Black, indigenous and people of color) adult supporters in child welfare, and there’s a stark need for CASA workers, who work with youth to have their concerns heard,” Stephens wrote in an email. Given the overrepresentation of Native American and Black children in Oregon foster care, Makinde said Every Child affiliates around the state focus on boosting the foster system’s ability to well serve Native American and Black children.