With Child Welfare, Racism Is Hiding in The Discretion

Vivek Sankaran - The Chronicle of Social Change

In this piece for the Chronicle of Social Change, Vivek Sankaran writes about personal experience as a family defense lawyer and witnessing the racial disparity in the U.S. child welfare system, particularly in the racial bias in the discretion of child protective services (CPS) caseworkers. "More than 60% of the cases CPS caseworkers investigate involve only 'neglect.' State laws usually define neglect as lack of adequate food, clothing and shelter. While a few of those cases might involve parents who intentionally withhold those material items from children, the vast majority will be parents who were simply too poor to provide them," writes Sankaran. "Combine such a broad definition as neglect with racial bias, and you get a system full of children of color traumatized by family separation inflicted in the name of 'saving' them. In 2018, Black children were 14% of the general population. But they were 23% of the foster care population."