This study analyzes the demographic characteristics of foster care children under the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) in Texas from 2002 to 2013. Using one state as an example, the progress charting data in 12 years demonstrates the need to set up a national agenda on closing the gap in racial disproportionality. While the data reveal an increase of Hispanic children in foster care from 33.6% in 2002 to 41.3% in 2013, in terms of disproportionality, the ratio index for Hispanic children has been much lower (0.83) than that for African American children (2.33) over all of these years. The engagement of 13 state-appointed disproportionality specialists in 2007 has shown some positive outcomes after five years. This is evidenced by examining the disproportionality index for African-American children’s representation in Texas (dropping to 1.98 in both years of 2012 and 2013). Data also show that it took over six years for the state to lower the disproportionality index of the African-American children represented in the public child welfare system by only 0.02. Continuous efforts must be planned so that this reducing trend will continue and its committed workforce will expand. These demographic data analyses support the need for Texas to further examine the state’s service development to ensure that foster children and their families of all ethnicities receive services that are gender sensitive, age and development specific, and efficient.

Key Take Away Points

1. Use data from a large state to address the importance of studying racial disproportionality in public child welfare in other states.

2. Provide administrators in public child welfare data to support the hiring of disproportionality specialists in the state to design culturally relevant prevention programs and interventions for children and their families.

3. Analyze trend data to support service and workforce planning.

4. Use disproportionality ratio to calculate disproportionality trend with state data and understand the importance of the government’s long-term commitment to close the disproportionality gaps in child welfare.

5. Present annual demographic characteristics in a decade to address service gaps and racial disparities.

Author Biography

Dr. Monit Cheung, MA, MSW, PhD, LCSW, is Professor and Chair of Clinical Practice Concentration at the Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston. She received her master's and doctoral degrees from The Ohio State University. She is Principal Investigator of the Child Welfare Education Project, a state partnership program funded federally by Title IV-E for training child welfare social workers, and Associate Director of the Child and Family Center for Innovative Research. She is the owner of the National Title IV-E Website posting up-to-date child welfare training and curriculum information. She has been a social worker for 37 years and is currently a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in play therapy, family counseling, child/adolescent counseling, child protection, sexual and domestic violence, and incest survivor treatment. She has practiced as a volunteer clinician by providing counseling and case consultation at the Asian American Family Services, and served as a consultant trainer for the Hong Kong Social Welfare Department and the Hong Kong Police Force. Using an experiential and practice-oriented approach in teaching, Dr. Cheung has taught at the graduate level for 28 years. She has presented in 247 workshops and conferences and written 442 articles, books, book chapters and research reports on child protection and parenting issues in English and Chinese. Her research interests are related to treatment effectiveness in the areas of child sexual abuse, creative family therapy, therapeutic touch, and immigrant adjustment. Dr. Cheung currently serves on the Diocesan Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People at the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, Advisory Board Member of Catholic Charities and Asian American Family Services, and the Board of End Child Sexual Abuse Foundation in Hong Kong. In the past decade, Dr. Cheung received the following awards: Mentor Award, 2012; '100 Buckeyes You Should Know: The Most Accomplished Alumni Award' from the Ohio State University; 2006-2015 Honorary Professor, University of Hong Kong; 2010 Alumni Hall of Fame from the Ohio State University College of Social Work; 2010 Outstanding Faculty Award; 2009 Best Reviewer Award from the Council on Social Work Education; Research Associate at the Center for Public Policy; 2006 Favorite Faculty Award; 2005 Unsung Hero Award from Channel 39 KHWB-TV; 2004 Golden Harvest Award from the Asian American Family Counseling Center; 2002 YWCA Outstanding Woman Award in Education; 2001 Ervan Chew Award for Community Leadership from the Girl Scout Council; 2000 Outstanding Faculty Award; and 1999-2001 Honorary Research Fellowship with the School of Social & Administrative Studies at Cardiff University, UK.

Dr. Patrick Leung, Professor and Director of the Office for International Social Work Education at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work (UH-GCSW), teaches program evaluation, research methodology, practice evaluation and doctoral level multivariate statistics. He was the founding Doctoral Program Director at UH-GCSW in 1993 and was the President of the Asian & Pacific Islander Social Work Educators Association from 2003 to 2010. Currently, he is the President of the Houston Chinese Faculty Association and President of the Phi Beta Delta International Honor Society at UH. He co-chairs the Texas Title IV-E Child Welfare Roundtable Evaluation Committee in Texas and serves on the National Title IV-E Evaluation Task Force. His research areas include cultural sensitivity training, Asian mental health issues, children and families, immigrant issues, domestic violence and gerontology. He received his Ph.D., M.S.W., M.A. (Public Administration) and B.S.S.W from The Ohio State University. He has served as principal investigator and evaluator on numerous projects at the federal, state and local levels; was a grant reviewer for ACYF (Administration for Children and Family, DDHS) and CSAP (Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, SAMSHA). He has published over 144 articles, book chapters and reports and has made 147 presentations at international, national and local conferences. He has served on many boards of directors. Currently, he is the Board Chair of the Alliance for Multicultural Community Services (serving the refugee population in Houston). He was the President and a co-founder of the Asian American Family Services (AAFS) in Houston, Texas. He is co-author of two books entitled Child Protection Training and Evaluation; and Multicultural Practice and Evaluation: A Case Approach to Evidence-Based Application.


The authors would like to thank the public data presented by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and their effort to serve children and families in closing the racial disproportionality gaps.