Fighting Institutional Racism At The Front End Of Child Welfare Systems

Government is perpetuating the oppression of Black children and families through traumatic surveillance, investigation, and family separation practices carried out under the auspices of the child welfare system. Institutional racism is a force at work in the American child welfare system and contributes to the disproportionate involvement of Black children and families with the system. This must change.

Children’s Rights has put forth a comprehensive set of actions with the potential to stop unnecessary state involvement in the lives of Black families, dramatically reduce the number of children entering state foster care and prevent the numerous harms that systems impose on Black youth. 

We look forward to partnering with other advocates and utilizing our expertise in child-focused strategic civil rights litigation and advocacy as we continue to fight institutional racism at the front end of child welfare systems.


Nationally, Black children  represent 14% of the general population of children and  22% of children in foster care.

Black children are disproportionately represented in 41 out of 52 child welfare system jurisdictions. 

Despite standardized screening tools to assess maternal drug use, medical professionals are two times as likely to screen Black infants v white infants.

Black children are more likely to  be reported for suspected abuse or neglect than white children  by educational personnel. 

Black families are almost twice as likely to be investigated  for child abuse or neglect,  compared to white families.

The parental rights of Black parents are terminated at higher rates than white parents.

In 2019, 18.2% of Black children were removed from their homes due to physical or sexual abuse, while 63.1% of Black children were removed due to neglect.


The profound trauma of family separation is proven to result in significant harm that can last a lifetime.

Children who are forcibly separated from their families experience emotional and psychological harm stemming from disruption of attachments, trauma from the very act of removal, and grief and loss. In the short term, children can experience intense anxiety, depression, and disruptive behaviors. Long-term consequences of involuntary family separation can include poor developmental health and adult involvement with the criminal legal system. 

Black parents experience an additional layer of trauma from the policing they are subjected to by an inherently racist system. The racism that Black families and children experience inflicts deep trauma and can impact long-term psychological and physical health.

Whether we prevail is determined not by all the challenges that are present, but by all the change that is possible.

Amanda Gorman 
Fury and Faith


Black children matter. Black parents matter. Black families matter. As such, fighting the disproportionate surveillance, investigation, and separation of Black families at the front end of child welfare systems is  among the most urgent civil rights battles of our time.

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