Bias, racism and evidence-based practice: The case for more focused development of the child welfare evidence base
In spite of continuing concerns about disproportionate representation of African Americans, American Indians, and selected other groups in foster care, development of the practice and policy evidence base has paid scant attention to incorporating the specific concerns of these communities in intervention research. The authors review the current foundation of evidence-based practice and identify gaps in the knowledge base with specific reference to race/ethnicity/culture and class. They recognize the current concerns regarding disproportionality in child welfare services; and summarize the current research on bias and racism to establish potential mechanisms contributing to racially disproportionate outcomes. Addressing these literatures in concert with one another gives new meaning to the phrase, culturally competent evidence-based practice. Culturally competent practice goes beyond admonishing practitioners and policy makers to be more sensitive or to undertake such training. It is a pathway to the development of a more targeted and relevant evidence base: 1) rigorous intervention research with diverse populations could be more intentionally developed and 2) existing rigorous research on successfully addressing bias could be more broadly applied and tested in child welfare. A model for evaluating the validity of the evidence base with respect to diverse populations is proposed.
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