School of Social Work

No. 28 M.S.W. Program in the U.S.

The VCU School of Social Work and its Child Welfare Stipend Program hosted a panel discussion, Systemic Racism, Disproportionality, and Equity in Child Welfare: Our History and Where to Focus Our Change Efforts? Nov. 10, 2020.

The panel session, available for viewing through the YouTube archive above, featured three alumni working in the field:

  • Danika Briggs (M.S.W.’03/SW), assistant director, Chesterfield-Colonial Heights Department of Social Services
  • Allison Gilbreath (B.S.’11/GPA; M.S.W.’16/SW), policy analyst [policy and program director], Voices for Virginia’s Children
  • Kristin Zagar (M.S.W.’03/SW), director, Division of Family Services, Virginia Department of Social Services

Resource list


Roberts, D. (2002). Shattered bonds : The color of child welfare. ProQuest Ebook Central. *This book is available free online through the VCU Library




Illustrating Disparity in Virginia

How unique and significant to school, diriving statement about what department is and value it brings.

Mission - provide info and accomplishments by audiences 

Goals - increase student recruitment materials
Increase external comms thru social
Showcasing sw educations, ethics, profession values education impact, inspire workforce dev and individuals and can be change agents in communities, support social justice, diversity, fairness, equity and impact in world around them. 

A decision point analysis is a useful way to see where children are overrepresented relative to their proportion in the base population. 

Data on poverty by race/ethnicity may not be available for all racial/ethnic groups. Percentages based on available data only.

Community landscape
Child population data
7% Asian/Pacific Islander
6% Multiracial
15% Latinx
21% Black/African American
50% White

Child poverty data
7% Multiracial
17% Latinx
39% Black/African American
33% White

Child Welfare Involvement
Data on children screen in for investigation
6% Multiracial
12% Latinx
27% Black/African American
54% White

Data on children confirmed as maltreated
7% Multiracial
13% Latinx
26% Black/African American
52% White

Foster Care Involvement
Data on children entering care
9% Multiracial
10% Latinx
24% Black/African American
57% White

Data on children in care
9% Multiracial
10% Latinx
27% Black/African American
53% White

Data on children in care 2+ years
9% Multiracial
11% Latinx
33% Black/African American
46% White

Data on youth agin out 2+ years
7% Multiracial
10% Latinx
34% Black/African American
47% White

Data source: state submitted AFCARS files 2019 / Casey Family Programs. For more information:

Roots of foster care

Roots of Foster Care
Illustration of a tweet with leafy branches and a root system.

Issues displayed at the highest level, i.e., the “leaves”:
Disproportionate number of Black children in foster care
Greater number of placement changes for Black children
Lack of funded community-based prevention programs
Greater emphasis on adoption vs. reunification
Lack of support for Virginia tribal families
Poor outcomes for your in the foster care (low education attainment, job attainment, incarceration rates)
Lack of kinship care supports
500 youth aging out each year

Issues displayed at the middle level, i.e., the “trunk”:
Expedited termination of parental rights
Racial biases in the workforce
Majority white staff
Cultural biases for child rearing
Police presence in low-income neighborhoods

Issues displayed at the lowest level, i.e., the “roots”:
Adoption and Safe Families Act
TANF time limits
Public housing
Family court laws
Structural racism
School funding formulas based on property taxes
Minimum wage not indexed to cost of living
Segregated communities
White supremacy
Mass incarceration/war on drugs
Systemic racism

Voices for Virginia’s Children

Source: Voices for Virginia’s Children. For more information:

Categories Alumni, Community, Students
Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply