Civil rights leaders call for child welfare reform in CA

January 6, 2012 6:21:26 PM PST
Dolores Huerta joined local and state leaders in San Jose this morning to call for a reform of California's child welfare system.

Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers labor union with Cesar Chavez, and other community and elected leaders gathered to testify at a legislative hearing this morning convened by Assemblyman Jim Beall, chairman of the Assembly Select Committee on Foster Care.

The hearing addressed the persistent disproportionate representation of Hispanic children in the state's child welfare system.

"There's something very, very wrong with our child welfare system," Huerta said at a news conference prior to the hearing.

Roughly half of those in foster care in California are from Hispanic poverty-stricken communities, according to La Raza Roundtable de California.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said the system has served as a "conveyer belt dumping kids in gangs and adults in prisons."

He said, "This is a really complex problem with lots of parts."

Santa Clara County's Department of Family and Children Services reported that in November, Hispanic children comprised 59 percent of the cases in the child welfare system, according to Beall's office.

Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith said the problem requires a three-pronged solution involving legislative change, utilizing litigation, and community involvement.

"We know now the only way we're going to solve this problem is by getting everyone on board," he said.