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Children’s Rights and Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute in Letter to United Nations Committee: Racial Injustice in Child Welfare is an Urgent Human Rights Issue

Contact: Camilla Jenkins, cjenkins@childrensrights.org; Anjli Parrin, hri@law.columbia.edu

NEW YORK, NY – On May 16, Children’s Rights and the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School submitted a letter to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination asking that it address racial discrimination within the child welfare system in an upcoming review of the U.S. regarding all forms of racial discrimination. While the Committee has previously expressed concerns over the “removal of indigenous children from their families and communities through the United States child welfare system,” as well as the “separation of migrant children from their parents at the border,” the body has not addressed discrimination within the child welfare system as a whole. The joint letter notes that in addition to these concerns, “the discriminatory surveillance, investigation, and separation of Black families by the U.S. child welfare system, and the devastating harm it inflicts on Black children within this system, warrants the Committee’s attention.” The letter recommends lines of inquiry for the UN, including: considering whether the U.S. is committed to recognizing systemic racism in child welfare; what steps the U.S. will take to review laws that perpetuate racism and harm children and families; and how the U.S. will address factors that lead to family involvement with the child welfare system for reasons of poverty.

Shereen A. White, Director of Advocacy & Policy at Children’s Rights, issued the following statement:

“We are bringing our concerns to the UN Committee because we believe that racial injustice in child welfare is a human rights issue. As advocates with years of experience working with children and families throughout the country, we know that although the child welfare system supposedly protects children’s safety and well-being, decades of research, data, and lived experiences show that the system actually has a long history of subjecting families of color, particularly Black families, to unjust and racist practices and policies. We urge the Committee to address the issue of racism within child welfare systems in its review of the United States later this year.”

Anjli Parrin, Co-Executive Director at Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, issued the following statement:

“In the United States, numerous federal and state laws and policies subject Black families to racist surveillance and policing by the child welfare system. The failure of the U.S. government to take action to address these laws and policies and their discriminatory impact violates the government’s obligation under the international convention on elimination of racial discrimination, and international law more broadly.”

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ABOUT CHILDREN’S RIGHTS

Every day, children are harmed in America’s broken 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 vulnerable children. For more information, please visit childrensrights.org.

ABOUT THE HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE

The Human Rights Institute advances international human rights through education, advocacy, fact-finding, research, scholarship, and critical reflection. We work in partnership with advocates, communities, and organizations pushing for social change to develop and strengthen the human rights legal framework and mechanisms, promote justice and accountability for human rights violations, and build and amplify collective power. For more information, please visit web.law.columbia.edu/human-rights-institute