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NAACP, children’s advocacy group file lawsuit against Minnesota for welfare discrimination 

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The Minneapolis branch of the NAACP and advocacy group Children’s Rights have filed a lawsuit alleging that the state of Minnesota and its child protection agencies and officials have discriminated on the basis of race against Black families in Minnesota, particularly in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties.

The lawsuit argues the discrimination is evident in the “historic, pervasive, and ongoing overrepresentation of Black families in Minnesota’s child welfare system” and that the state has a pattern and practice of using federal funds to discriminatorily surveil and separate Black families, specifically in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

“Minnesota has engaged in a long-standing pattern and practice of intrusive interventions, causing prolonged and often permanent separation and inflicting immediate and long-term harm,” the suit states. “The consequences of these patterns and practices in Minnesota’s child welfare system have been disastrous and disproportionately suffered by Minnesota’s Black and low income population, leading to significant adverse and discriminatory effects on the basis of race that are without any legitimate justification.”

The groups have filed the lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (HHS-OCR) and are now calling for an investigation.

“For far too long, forces within our government have worked to divide, and decimate Black families and communities. Let’s be clear – federal dollars should never be used as tools of discrimination,” Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO, said in a statement.

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“Our children are the future, and we must protect them. The NAACP is proud to stand with our Minneapolis branch and Children’s Rights in advocating for Black families across Minnesota who have been relentlessly targeted and terrorized. We will continue to hold institutions of power accountable for their role in advancing equity and opportunity for all Americans,” Johnson said. 

Black children in Hennepin County made up more than 53 percent of all reports to Minnesota’s Children and Family Services in the last five years from schools, law enforcement, social services and other mandatory reporters, nearly 70 percent of which were not due to physical or sexual abuse, according to the lawsuit. White children made up less than 35 percent of all reports in the last five years.

In Ramsey County, Black children made up 41 percent to 46 percent of all reports in the last

five years, the majority of which were not due to physical or sexual abuse. White children made up less than 36 percent of all reports in the last five years. 

Hennepin and Ramsey counties are home to Minneapolis and St. Paul, the state’s largest two cities.

During this time, cases involving Black children were more likely to result in an investigation, as well as removal and family separation, than cases involving white children.

In 2021, the Black child population in Minnesota was 11 percent, but Black children made up 17 percent of those involved in assessments and investigations. 

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That same year, Black children in the state were two times more likely – and biracial or multiracial children were seven times more likely –  to be removed and placed in a foster home than white children. 

Cynthia Wilson, President of the Minneapolis Branch of the NAACP, said Minnesota’s government has failed these families.

“Black children and families have long endured suffering at the hands of Minnesota’s child welfare system,” said Wilson. “It’s a sad day when advocates must step in to protect our children from the very agency that is supposed to serve them.”

Research has shown that the U.S. child welfare system disproportionately impacts Black children and families. 

In 2020, 63 percent of Black children were separated from their families because of “neglect.” But neglect does not always indicate abuse.

In January 2021, the U.S. Administration for Children and Families identified “neglect” removals as one of the leading causes for children to be removed from their families. But reasons for those removals included inadequate housing or failure to provide adequate nutrition. 

In April 2021, President Biden acknowledged that “the enduring effects of systemic racism and economic barriers mean that families of color are disproportionately affected” by these removals. 

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Over 50 percent of Black children are investigated by child welfare services, compared to only 28 percent of white children.

Studies show Black families are more likely to experience worse outcomes once they become involved in child welfare services than white families. 

But, the lawsuit argues, Minnesota’s numbers outpace national trends. 

Between 2019 and 2021, Black children in Hennepin County were removed from their homes between 33 percent and 38 percent of the time. In Ramsey County, Black children were removed between 33 percent and 37 percent of the time. 

Black children in Minnesota are also more likely to experience termination of parental rights (TPR) than white children. These numbers also outpace national trends.

Between 2019 and 2021, TPR for Black children in Hennepin County ranged from 32 percent to 39 percent. In Ramsey County, TPR ranged from 45 percent to 54 percent. 

During the same time period, the national TPR rate ranged from 18 percent to 19 percent across.

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“The nation has failed children. Every 2.5 minutes, a child in the U.S. is separated from their family and placed in the foster system, most often for reasons related to the color of their skin or the poverty they experience – not because they are hurting their kids. Minnesota has set a shameful example decade after decade,” said Shereen A. White, Director of Advocacy and Policy at Children’s Rights. “The discriminatory use of ‘emergency removals’ and implementation of safety assessment tools is devastating Black families in Minnesota.”

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Source: The Hill

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