This report examines removals of children and termination of parental rights by state child welfare systems, focusing primarily on four states: California, New York, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. The number of children removed from their families, the too-often unjust circumstances of removal, and the disproportionate effects on Black and Indigenous families, and those living in poverty, make this a national family separation crisis warranting immediate attention and action. The report finds that child welfare systems too often respond to circumstances of poverty with punishment.
Parents too often face charges of neglect and see their children removed from their care instead of receiving support to keep families together. Black and Indigenous families disproportionately face neglect charges and removals. In fact, federal and state data show racial and ethnic disparities exist at every stage of involvement, with particular harm to Black families. As a result, many parents, advocates, and experts describe the system not as one primarily of child protection, but as family "regulation" and "policing."