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Family Team Decision-Making: Does it Reduce Racial Disproportionality in Washington's Child Welfare System?

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Marna Miller - March 2011

Washington’s Children’s Administration uses Family Team Decision Making (FTDM) meetings to involve parents and other family members, the child (when appropriate), friends, foster parents, caseworkers, and other professionals. Ideally, FTDM meetings are held for all decisions involving child removal, change of placement, and reunification or other permanency plan. In 2008, DSHS convened 6,600 FTDM meetings regarding nearly 8,000 children.

An earlier Institute study demonstrated over-representation of Indian, Black and Latino children in Washington’s child welfare system. Following referrals to Child Protective Services (CPS), Indian and Black children (but not Asian or Latino children) were more likely to be placed in foster care, and to remain in care significantly longer than White children. In 2009, the Legislature directed the Institute to study the effects of the implementation of FTDM on racial disproportionality.

When we studied outcomes for the child welfare caseload statewide, we found that FTDM had no effect on out-of-home placement, time to permanency, or new referrals to CPS.

When we examined outcomes by racial groups, however, we found three positive results for FTDM. 1) Latino children experienced decreased rates of placement. 2) Asian children achieved permanency more quickly than those in non-FTDM offices. 3) Black children exiting to permanency were less likely to be the alleged victims of new accepted CPS referrals.

With the exception of these three favorable results, FTDM as implemented in Washington did not affect disproportionality for Indian or Black children with respect to placement in foster care or time to permanency.

Report ID: 11-03-3901

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