We only need to look at the child welfare system to see the harm that social workers cause Black families. Social workers over-surveil, over-police and over-remove Black children from their parents. Black children are overrepresented in foster care at a rate nearly double their proportion in the general population. We have known about this for decades and have been unable to resolve this.
We also know that separating children from their parents causes harm. As a nation, we’ve witnessed the harm and trauma that result when children are separated from their parents at the U.S./Mexico border. This same harm and trauma occur when children are forcibly separated from their parents by child protection authorities. And although those decisions are supposed to be made in the name of safety, they are often based on racial biases among child welfare caseworkers, many of whom are social workers. To be effective in resolving crises, we need to examine our own systems, and begin to train social workers to not only respond to crises, but to do so in a way that doesn’t perpetuate harmful, racist outcomes.
● Shanta Trivedi, clinical teaching fellow at Georgetown University Law Center writes for NBC Think about how police, like so many other “mandated reporters,” are too prone to report Black families to child welfare agencies when they confuse those families’ poverty with neglect. She writes:
Common behaviors in white communities can lead to removal in minority neighborhoods, often because police are more likely to patrol there. …
Once embroiled in the child welfare system, there is bias throughout. Two studies in Texas demonstrated that even though Black families on average were given lower risk scores than white families when initially assessed on whether children could safely remain at home, they were 20 percent more likely to have their case opened for services, and 77 percent more likely to have their children removed instead of being provided with family-based safety services.
● Notwithstanding the ugly behavior of some child welfare bureaucrats pandering to selfish foster parents, it is, in fact, often possible for foster children to get safe, in person visits with their parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics has detailed guidelines concerning how, and when, it can be done.