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The Case for Child Welfare Abolition

For decades, reformers have tried to fix our broken child protective services system. Is abolishing it an idea whose time has come?


Early last December, CBS Sunday Morning ran a 12-minute segment about the harms of the child welfare system. The report led with the story of Vanessa Peoples, a Colorado nursing student and mother of three who became the subject of an abuse investigation after her two-year-old briefly wandered away from a family picnic. A stranger saw the child and called the police, despite the fact that Peoples, who is Black, caught up with her son shortly afterward. The call initiated an investigation from child protective services (CPS). A month later, a social worker made an unannounced visit to Peoples’ home; when Peoples didn’t immediately answer (because she was doing laundry in the basement), the social worker called the police, who ended up violently hogtying Peoples and charging her with reckless endangerment of a child. Peoples won a settlement against the city of Aurora for using excessive force, but she was still traumatized — and left with a criminal conviction that makes it difficult for her to find employment.

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