Community Symposia

Racial Disproportionality in CPS: What can big data tell us?

2023 Community Symposium – “Racial Disproportionality in CPS: What can big data tell us?” featuring Brett Drake, MSW, PhD, Professor of Data Science for the Social Good in Practice, Washington University, St. Louis

Symposium Description

Are Black children overreported to Child Protective Services?  Once reported, are they substantiated and placed in foster care more often than White children?  These are critical questions which are currently driving policy in child welfare at the state level, the national level and have drawn international attention.  In this presentation, I discuss the results of a study in which our research team uses fifteen years of national child maltreatment reporting data representing tens of millions of reports.  We present these data alongside data from other sources such as the Census, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to determine the degree to which child welfare risk factors, outcomes and reporting vary across racial/ethnic groups.  We then report rates of substantiation and transition to foster care for Black, Hispanic and White children.  Our findings suggest that Black children are not overreported to Child Protective Services relative to their risk, and that once reported, they are no more likely to be substantiated or placed.  Current policies meant to reduce the number of Black children reported are inconsistent with national data and should be reconsidered.

About the Speaker

Dr. Drake is Professor of Data Science for the Social Good in Practice at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, where he has taught since 1991.  His substantive area is child maltreatment and public child welfare systems, with an emphasis on early system contacts, including reporting and substantiation.  He formulated the popular “Harm / Evidence” model of substantiation and has a particular interest in poverty and its strong association with child maltreatment.  Dr. Drake’s work features the incorporation of geographic variables (e.g. neighborhood poverty) into child maltreatment research, and explores a range of policy issues, such as mandated reporting, and questions of class and racial bias in child welfare reporting. He is co-author, along with his wife, Melissa Jonson-Reid of “After the Cradle Falls” a text on child maltreatment (Oxford Press) aimed at a general audience. Prior to entering academia, Dr. Drake had several years of field experience as a child protective services worker.

Event Sponsors Include: University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s SAFE PLACE: The Center for Child Protection and Health, and University of Pennsylvania School of Arts & Sciences

Thank you for your interest in this event. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide the recording at this time.  We encourage you to stay updated on our work by visiting