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UN Calls for US Action to Address Racial Injustice in Child Welfare System

UN Committee recommends US take all appropriate measures to eliminate racial discrimination in the child welfare system following testimony from Children’s Rights and partner advocates

Media Contact: Camilla Jenkins, cjenkins@childrensrights.org

GENEVA —On August 30, The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issued its Concluding Observations following its review of the performance of the United States on efforts to eliminate racial discrimination. Among its recommendations are two that specifically address actions that the U.S. should take to eliminate racial discrimination in the child welfare system. The recommendations follow a review by CERD of a report and testimony from Children’s Rights and other child welfare experts and advocates. 

In articles 43 and 44 of its observations, CERD states:

The Committee is concerned at the disproportionate number of children of racial and ethnic minorities removed from their families and placed in foster care, in particular children of African descent and Indigenous children. It is also concerned that families of racial and ethnic minorities are subjected to disproportionately high levels of surveillance and investigation and are less likely to be reunified with their children. The Committee recommends that the State party take all appropriate measures to eliminate racial discrimination in the child welfare system, including by amending or repealing laws, policies and practices that have a disparate impact on families of racial and ethnic minorities, such as the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act.

We are so gratified that CERD has recognized that racial injustice in child welfare is an urgent human rights issue, and it is long past time for the U.S. to take action to address this crisis,” said Shereen A. White, director of advocacy and policy at Children’s Rights, who advocated for this outcome to members of the CERD during the Committee’s August 2022 convening.Black, Indigenous, and other families of color experience immeasurable stress and trauma at the hands of our child welfare system. The U.S. government and policymakers must follow the recommendations of the UN and advance solutions that address the urgent concerns of Black children and families impacted by the child welfare system.”

The Concluding Observations released by CERD follow the submission of a new report by Children’s Rights, the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School, and more than 30 advocates and civil rights organizations. The report called on CERD to hold the United States accountable for its failure to adequately address or remedy racial discrimination within the child welfare system, a violation of Article II of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). 

Earlier this year, the Biden Administration acknowledged the ongoing structural racism within the U.S. child welfare system. However, the U.S. has not taken meaningful action to address or remedy the harms caused by racist child welfare policies.



Every day, children are harmed in America’s child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and healthcare systems. Through relentless strategic advocacy and legal action, we hold governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy. Children’s Rights, a national non-profit organization, has made a lasting impact for hundreds of thousands of children. For more information, please visit www.childrensrights.org.