Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Dr. Anne Hacker


Families of color in the State of Michigan, as in many other states, have been overrepresented in the child welfare system, particularly in the foster care system. The Child and Family Services and Improvement Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-288) was intended, in part, to provide community-based interventions that could rectify the inequality some African American families experienced during their journey through the U.S. child welfare system. Guided by Bronfenbrenner's human ecology theory and Shaw and McKay's social disorganization theory, the purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the experiences and perceptions of African American parents and families about the barriers they experienced in exiting the child welfare system, thereby expanding the current literature and increasing awareness of institutional racism that many African American families experience. The central research question was how human ecology and social disorganization theories might explain the challenges African American families experienced in exiting the child welfare system. Semi structured interviews of 8 African American parents were conducted and data analyzed using a continuous iterative process. Findings indicated that African Americans experienced institutional racism and cultural bias from caseworkers that appear to slow their successful exit from the system. Implications for social change include informing policy makers of the need for cultural sensitivity training among those responsible for implementing child welfare policies so as to lessen biased pathways African American families experience while navigating through these complicated systems.