The new director of Iowa’s Department of Human Services traveled to Sioux City this week to attend a meeting of Native American leaders. Some of Iowa’s minority families have complained their kids are over-represented in the child-welfare system, and D-H-S spokesman Roger Munns says they’ve got a point.Most Iowans are Caucasian, and most abused kids are white — but proportionately, minority Iowans are over-represented in the system just as they are in other states, something attributed to the stress of poverty since he says being poor is a leading indicator in child abuse. Two major areas of the state have been chosen for special projects aimed at reducing the disparity in numbers of minority children who are abused and enter Iowa’s child-welfare system. Those two areas are Des Moines, which has the state’s largest concentration of African-American residents, and Sioux City, where many Native American Iowans live. He says the idea’s to reduce the overall rate at which children of all colors enter the child-welfare system, and also to reduce the disproportionate number of minority kids. Part of the “Children of Color” project will be asking hard questions of both state workers and private providers of services to children and families. Questions like: Do we investigate more quickly if told there’s a minority family involved? Do we tend to find abuse more often when arriving at the home of a minority family? If a child must be removed from the family, how well does the state do at finding culturally-appropriate foster homes? Munns says it’s not a new thing to review the department’s procedures, as director Kevin Conannon began a top-to-bottom review when he took over the job last year.
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