While African-American children are 15 percent of the population in the state of Illinois, they make up more than 53 percent of the children in the state’s foster care system.
Illinois State University and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) strived to give communities the tools to combat this inequality at a conference that will attract hundreds of social workers, prospective foster parents and first responders from throughout Illinois. The event, Keeping Our Eyes on the Prize: 21st Annual Conference on African American Child Well-Being and Family Permanency, was held June 7, at the Bone Student Center.
“The (conference) will provide(d) an opportunity for the community to come together with policy makers, researchers, judges, social work practitioners, and concerned citizens to engage in informed dialogue about the issues facing vulnerable families and children who are at risk of entering the foster care system,” said Doris Houston, associate director of the Center for Adoption Studies at Illinois State.
“There are approximately 5,000 African-American children in the foster care system in Illinois, and more than half of them will remain in foster care for more than three years,” said Jeanne Howard, also co-director of the Center for Adoption Studies at Illinois State. “The goal is to get children back into a stable family environment, whether by strengthening their family ties or getting them adopted into a new family that lasts.”
The conference included multicultural vendors and artists, a foster and adoptive parent recruitment booth and an afternoon cultural presentation.