Marion Gibson says the problem is obvious once you look at the numbers. While 18 percent of Fayette County's children are black, they represent 38.8 percent of children in out-of-home care and 36.3 percent of those referred for help with alleged abuse and neglect.
What problems are behind those numbers, and how can the community do better?
Those are issues to be addressed at the R.A.C.E. Forum (Realizing Accountability Creates Equity) being held Saturday at the Imani Church and Family Life Center.
"What we're looking at is racial disproportionality in the child care system — including family court, child protective services, foster care, a lot of things that affect families," said Gibson, one of the facilitators of the forum.
Since so many black homes are needed for care of Fayette County children, forum participants will discuss to step up recruitment of such families, she said.
Part of the problem is that the community is not aware of the problem.
"If the community knows there's a problem, then the community can help them solve the problem," Gibson said.
The forum will feature a community panel and a "gatekeeper" panel of those that provide services to children. The panels will discuss institutional racism and the role of the gatekeeper in the community. Participants will then move into a guided conversation between community members and gatekeepers.
Rebecca DiLoreto, an attorney with Kentucky's Children's Law Center, said that those who should attend include those, "who have concerns about how we as a community in Fayette County are addressing issues of racial disparity in our institutions that are serving children and families."
From a national standpoint, she said, those children who end up in the child welfare system are likely to be the offspring of parents who have been incarcerated. It's important that those children get the best services possible, she said, whether those be with foster placements or alternate placements with their extended family.
The afternoon will conclude with small group discussions to arrive at action steps to be considered by the Fayette County Race, Community and Child Welfare committee.
The group will meet again in January to fully flesh out its action steps, DiLoreto said.
IF YOU GO
RACE (Realizing Accountability Creates Equity) Forum
When: 1-4 p.m., Nov. 16
Where: Imani Church and Family Life Center, 1555 Georgetown Road
Cheryl Truman: (859)231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.