A Racial Equity Staff Development Strategy for Public Human Service Organizations


This chapter focuses on a staff development strategy that was implemented in a public child welfare organization in the northeastern part ofthe United States to address worker bias because it was believed that worker bias contributed to the disproportionality and disparate outcomes of people of color in this municipality. As cited in the United States Government Accountability Office (2007) report, caseworker bias directed at families and children in the child welfare system is one of many factors that contribute to high rates of disproportionality and disparity for people of color, particularly black children in the nation's child welfare system. The issue of worker bias resonated deeply with the authors because of their experience working in the child welfare system as well as narratives obtained from a focus group of child protective workers who were on the staff of a public child welfare organization while they were graduate students enrolled in a master of social work (MSW) program. The authors are not suggesting that worker bias exists in isolation of institutional and systemic racism. However, the existence of negative attitudes toward African American parents within the child welfare system is prevalent, as was found in a study of Michigan's child welfare system (Center for the Study of Social Policy, 2009), and it bears directly on attempts to alter attitudes. A large-scale investigation using qualitative methods found that the belief was prevalent within the child welfare system that African American children were better off away from their biological families (Center for the Study of Social Policy, 2009). Hence, the shared belief in the inferior parenting abilities ofAfrican Americans resulted in practices that worked against a strengths-based approach that would incorporate efforts to keep children at home. This underlying assumption is not far from the value beliefs that Billingsley and Giovannoni (1972) found existing over 30 years ago, a dominant belief shared by the wider society.

This chapter provides the reader with an understanding of the authors' planning, implementation, and evaluation of the staff development strategy. It also includes detailed descriptions of each workshop and the analysis of the evaluations presented in tables and figures.

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