Children in San Francisco are 80 percent more likely to be in foster care than children in other parts of the state, and The City’s black children are some 2,000 percent more likely to be in foster care than white kids.
City officials say that’s actually an improvement from the disparity in years past, but San Francisco social workers are still 50 percent more likely to separate a black child from their family and place them in foster care than social workers elsewhere in California.
Also, they are about 20 percent less likely to place a white child in foster care than social workers in other parts of the state.
Human Services Agency Director Trent Rhorer pointed out that the disparity is historical and that the percentage of black children entering the system today is lower than it was a decade ago.
“We’re actually very pleased with the progress we’ve made in foster care,” Rhorer said. “The numbers may show we don’t compare favorably to [the rest of the state], but when you look at the progress we’ve made, it’s quite remarkable.”
He said the total number of San Francisco children on the foster care rolls has dropped by nearly half in the past decade, and the percentage of black children on those rolls has dropped from almost 70 percent to 64 percent.
Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, who a few years ago helped create a task force on foster care, said she’s frustrated that more advances have not been made, noting that some 70 percent of inmates in San Quentin State Prison were in foster care.
San Francisco had a huge surge of black children in foster care in the late 1980s and early 1990s because The City had a policy of placing children in the system if there was any trace of drugs in their bodies. And, The City didn’t check whether the children had other relatives who could care for them.
Now, those children are “aging out” of the system, Human Services Agency Deputy Director Debby Jeter said, which will change the demographics of The City’s foster care population.
But, Maxwell is dissatisfied.
“They always go, ‘We’re trying this and that,’” Maxwell said. “But, then you see the numbers and they’re still shocking.”
Finding homes for children
Statistics comparing numbers of foster children in San Francisco and California:
In foster care Entering foster care
per 1,000 in 2009 per 1,000 in 2009
California (total) 6.0 3.1
Black 26.6 11.0
White 4.8 2.6
San Francisco (total) 10.8 3.3
Black 80.7 16.4
White 3.8 2.0
59,484 children in foster care in California in 2009
1,289 children in foster care in San Francisco in 2009
20.6 percent of California children sent out of county for foster care
54.7 percent of S.F. children sent out of county for foster care
Sources: Center for Social Services Research at UC Berkeley, California Department of Social Services
City defends placing kids out of county
San Francisco is far more likely to send children out of the county for foster care than any other county in California, but according to Human Services Agency Director Trent Rhorer, that statistic is an indicator of success.
According to state data, only about 20 percent of foster children are sent to other counties for care, while in San Francisco, some 55 percent are sent out.
“With out-of-county placement rate, we are the highest in the state,” Rhorer said. “But, that masks something else: We have the highest rate of placement with relatives,” he said. “It just so happens that most of the relatives are out of town, [mostly] in Alameda County or Sacramento. But, we’d rather place the child with their uncle or aunt or grandparent than to place them [with strangers] in The City just to pump up our numbers.”