Questions from People Who Care About Kids

Children’s Rights’ Ask the Experts campaign was designed to empower our community with knowledge about the U.S. child welfare system and the harm it causes to children, families, and communities. The questions we received were caring and thought-provoking. Here we answer those we felt were both compelling, and reflected the concerns of so many. 

ICYM: Last week we answered this question with information about a 50-year-old law that has failed to protect children. You can read about it here.

In contrast, studies show that supporting families with access to financial and concrete supports—like food, water, shelter, and health care—can reduce child maltreatment and involvement with child welfare services, and improve children’s development and well-being. Learn more here.

One state’s promise to prioritize families. In 2022 the state of Connecticut exited a lawsuit brought by Children’s Rights and our co-counsel partners. The state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) delivered measurable, durable improvements to the care and support of the children it serves.

Connecticut was successful in large part because its leaders were committed to making change happen and, while the work is never done, developed tools and resources to help ensure that the improvements can be sustained over time. You can read more about the state’s success here.

Recommendations for change. Children’s Rights’ reports examine the harms government systems inflict on children and families and offer evidence-based recommendations and toolkits for change.

Child welfare—like our housing, legal, education, and health care systems—is racist in its history, beginning with slavery. It is perpetuated by laws and policies that overwhelmingly result in families being punished instead of getting the help they need, and by deeply embedded stereotypes about Black parents.

Learn more on our racial justice page or read our landmark Call to Action to end the unjust removal of Black children from their families. 

Yes. Federal law, backed up by clinical research, upholds that children removed from their homes are best served when they can live with kin. Yet, relative foster parents and the children they care for have long been treated unfairly.

Last year, the U.S. Administration for Children and Families announced a revised rule to address this inequity, allowing more children to be cared for by kin and financially supported in the same way as children with non-kin foster parents.

While we work to reduce the number of children in our national foster system, we also support youth currently in the system. Kinship caregivers play a crucial role in the solution. Learn more here.

Without question children who are abused or severely neglected by their parents should be removed from their home for their own safety and protection.

But most children wind up in the foster system for reasons that stem from poverty – like unstable housing or a lack of child care – not child mistreatment. This burden falls most heavily on Black and Native children. 

The harms of child removal are well documented. Research shows family separation has emotional and psychological consequences that may be worse than leaving a child at home. This is due to the trauma of removal itself, as well as the unstable nature of, and high rates of abuse in, the foster system. This is particularly true for the over 50,000 youth who are placed in dangerous institutions where they face significantly higher rates of abuse, sex trafficking, and incarceration.

Read Are You Listening, the brave accounts of young New Yorkers calling for an end to institutionalization or visit our Families Together page to learn more.

In the midst of the political and social upheavals rocking our nation, it’s nice to know that there is one thing we can agree on: we love kids and want them to thrive. There couldn’t be a better time to make a difference for kids and families in our own communities. 

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Keep track of bills and policies, evaluate their impact on kids, and make your voice heard by your elected officials.
  2. Get involved in local politics, or even run for office.
  3. Join a faith-based organization.
  4. Support your local food pantry.
  5. Volunteer for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or one of the many organizations working to protect the rights of children harmed by the foster, juvenile legal, immigration, education, and healthcare systems. Find volunteer opportunities near you.

Thank you for committing to learning more about children’s rights issues.