Why Diversity Is Important in Child Protection

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NCCD Blog

Why Diversity Is Important in Child Protection

Matthew Levenson, Program Associate, NCCD

Training child protective services (CPS) workers who have direct contact with families is an important piece of our work at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD). In jurisdictions throughout the United States and around the world, we train workers to make good decisions in child protection. These decisions have substantial implications for and significant impacts on families.

It is no secret that people of color are overrepresented in the child welfare system. Importantly, CPS social workers are predominantly White and non-Hispanic (58%), while about 24% are African American, and 15% are Hispanic.

Research suggests that child welfare agencies can likely be more effective if they invest in diversity training along with recruiting and retaining staff of color. A commitment to understanding the cultures and backgrounds of the families workers serve can produce better outcomes for children and families and reduce disparities in child welfare systems. Many state and local jurisdictions with which NCCD partners have begun prioritizing diversity and inclusion while also recognizing that more work must be done.

Why does this matter? Some studies have shown that CPS workers who share or understand a family’s culture may better understand that family’s needs. Additionally, child welfare agencies, like all organizations, benefit from a diverse workforce. At an organizational level, ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform other companies. Gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform companies with less gender diversity.

NCCD is actively working toward making diversity and inclusion a priority not only in the workplace, but in the work we do with the jurisdictions we serve. NCCD understands the importance of diversity in the child welfare field, and the organization strives to reflect these values in its mission and within its workforce. NCCD’s newly formed Diversity and Inclusion Committee has been tasked with several objectives that will promote diversity and inclusion within the organization and ensure it is at the forefront of our work. The committee’s efforts will primarily focus on the following.

  • Building capacity and competency to lead and manage a diverse workforce.
  • Creating a work environment that ensures equal access to opportunities for professional growth and advancement.
  • Developing cultural competence and responsiveness, as an organization, to maximize our effectiveness in project engagements with clients and partners, considering and respecting their unique perspectives, experiences, and needs.

The committee held a two-day kickoff earlier this year at NCCD’s Madison, Wisconsin, office. This kickoff included a training, “Creating Equitable Organizations,” put on by the YWCA of Dane County. The training highlighted the Multicultural Organization Developmental Model, which is used to evaluate the current state of organizations and create “concrete strategies and action plans to move toward becoming a more equitable and inclusive organization.”

Committee members are using information from that training to help shape the committee’s initiatives. These initiatives include creating learning opportunities to increase understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the organization; conducting research to identify best practices; and formulating recommendations for the development or modification of policies and practices that may negatively impact diversity, inclusivity, and equity efforts. Additionally, the committee will identify and build upon partnerships in the community that promote equity, social justice, and inclusion.

The value of diversity and inclusion is shared by NCCD’s executive leadership. Executive leadership will work with the committee to create opportunities for meaningful staff discussion about organizational culture and climate. Leadership and the committee plan to work together to create a communication pipeline that allows for more feedback and recommendations supporting short- and long-term strategies to meet the organization’s current and future workforce needs.

As NCCD’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee moves forward with its work, we hope to create an inclusive atmosphere that leads to better recruitment and retention of staff from diverse backgrounds. In addition, NCCD will work toward serving as a model for CPS agencies throughout the country and around the world for best practices in child protection. As more agencies and organizations work toward building better internal capacity to focus on diversity and inclusion efforts, the more likely they will apply this toward the work they do in the field.

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