NAACP, Children’s Rights Submit Civil Rights Complaint Against Minnesota’s Child Welfare System, Alleging Racial Discrimination


Alicia Mercedes, NAACP:

Camilla Jenkins, Children’s Rights:

First-of-its-kind complaint highlights disproportionate, racially discriminatory impact on Black children, families.

MINNEAPOLIS – Today, the Minneapolis Branch of the NAACP and Children’s Rights submitted a formal complaint against the State of Minnesota. The complaint, which was compiled by NAACP National’s Office of General Counsel and lawyers for Children’s Rights, requests an immediate investigation into the Minnesota child welfare system’s use of federal funds. Using comprehensive data and anecdotal evidence, the organizations allege that the agency has violated civil rights laws in ways that discriminate against, and are having a disparate and harmful impact on, Black children and families. 

The complaint, submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (HHS-OCR), outlines how, for years, the State has discriminatorily surveilled and separated Black families, specifically in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, as evidenced by the historic, pervasive and ongoing overrepresentation of Black children in the child welfare system.  

“For far too long, forces within our government have worked to divide, and decimate Black families and communities. Let’s be clear – federal dollars should never be used as tools of discrimination,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO. “Our children are the future, and we must protect them. The NAACP is proud to stand with our Minneapolis branch and Children’s Rights in advocating for Black families across Minnesota who have been relentlessly targeted and terrorized. We will continue to hold institutions of power accountable for their role in advancing equity and opportunity for all Americans.” 

“The federal government acknowledges the racially discriminatory and harmful impact of child welfare systems on Black children and families, propped up by decades-old laws rooted in racism and the legacy of slavery. Under the guise of child protection, these dysfunctional systems continue to perpetuate a cycle of poverty, racism, abuse, and discrimination,” said Sandy Santana, Executive Director at Children’s Rights. “The impact has been devastating for children in Minnesota and across the country and we must use every tool to address it. In this moment we join with our NAACP partners in urging the Biden Administration to take action.”

In the complaint, the NAACP and Children’s Rights urge the HHS-OCR to swiftly investigate, and take decisive action to hold the State of Minnesota accountable for its racially discriminatory practices.

“Black children and families have long endured suffering at the hands of Minnesota’s child welfare system,” said Cynthia Wilson, President of the Minneapolis Branch of the NAACP. “It’s a sad day when advocates must step in to protect our children from the very agency that is supposed to serve them. The Minnesota government has failed us. Now, it’s up to our federal government to right these wrongs and correct the course of justice. We urge the Office of Civil Rights to accept our complaint and take the necessary steps to hold our state institutions accountable for the harm they have inflicted. The Minneapolis Branch of the NAACP will continue to fight these injustices and demand equitable policies that advance, not threaten, the welfare of every child in Minnesota regardless of their race and background.”

“The nation has failed children. Every 2.5 minutes, a child in the U.S. is separated from their family and placed in the foster system, most often for reasons related to the color of their skin or the poverty they experience – not because they are hurting their kids. Minnesota has set a shameful example decade after decade,” said Shereen A. White, Director of Advocacy and Policy at Children’s Rights. “The discriminatory use of ‘emergency removals’ and implementation of safety assessment tools is devastating Black families in Minnesota.”

To read the full complaint, click here



Children’s Rights is a national advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of children living in or impacted by America’s child welfare, juvenile legal, immigration, education, and healthcare systems. We use civil rights impact litigation, advocacy and policy expertise, and public education to hold governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy. Our work centers on creating lasting systemic change that will advance the rights of children for generations. For more information, please visit


The NAACP advocates, agitates, and litigates for the civil rights due to Black America. Our legacy is built on the foundation of grassroots activism by the biggest civil rights pioneers of the 20th century and is sustained by 21st century activists. From classrooms and courtrooms to city halls and Congress, our network of members across the country works to secure the social and political power that will end race-based discrimination. That work is rooted in racial equity, civic engagement, and supportive policies and institutions for all marginalized people. We are committed to a world without racism where Black people enjoy equitable opportunities in thriving communities.

NOTE: The Legal Defense Fund – also referred to as the NAACP-LDF – was founded in 1940 as a part of the NAACP, but now operates as a completely separate entity.