Policy & Practice | April 2022


he policies that authorize and guide implementation of human services delivery are often based on research that informs who receives

services, what services will best meet their needs, and how these services are delivered. For this reason, it is critical that programs that serve families with children draw on research that captures the most accurate picture of families and their needs. However, historical approaches to researching Black families in the United States, in particular, have fallen short and have not always captured families’ and children’s unique and varied experiences, characteristics, and outcomes. These approaches, or perspectives, broadly fall under three umbrellas and have heavily informed human services policies and practices. 1 legacy of slavery has created a Black family unit that is disorganized, pathological, and unstable, and at risk for poor outcomes across a wide range of domains. Implicit in this nar- rative is an assumption that Black families are deviant because they do not mirror White middle-class families in structure or behaviors. n The second perspective also includes a focus on real or perceived deficits in outcomes for Black families, but places primary culpa- bility on a long history of structural racism embedded in U.S. systems. In this perspective, cultural assets specific to Black families have helped them navigate discrimination, racism, and oppression to varying degrees of success, but the commonly employed definition of n The first perspective is one of Black families in disarray: According to this perspective, the

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