REPORT: If I Wasn’t Poor, I Wouldn’t Be Unfit: The Family Separation Crisis in the US Child Welfare System
‘If I Wasn’t Poor, I Wouldn’t Be Unfit’: The Family Separation Crisis in the US Child Welfare System, an ACLU research report produced in collaboration with Human Rights Watch, documents the child welfare’s system’s disproportionate impact on Black and Indigenous families and people living in poverty.
Based on comprehensive research, including interviews with caregivers, staff, and experts; policy analysis; and new analysis of government data, this report details how conditions of poverty, such as a family’s struggle to pay rent or maintain housing, are misconstrued as neglect, and interpreted as evidence of an inability and lack of fitness to parent.
The research found that child welfare systems too often charge parents of neglect and take away their children instead of providing support to keep families together.
In addition to socioeconomic disparities, the report documents racial and ethnic disparities in child welfare system involvement. Black and Indigenous families disproportionately face intrusive child welfare interventions, including investigations and unjust removal of their children. This research not only provides a national perspective, but also includes select data points for each state and a deep dive into California, New York, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.
The report concludes with concrete recommendations for federal, state, and local policymakers and stakeholders to take immediate measures to reduce the harmful impact of child welfare interventions, and to strengthen and support families and communities to prevent child maltreatment, without subjecting them to surveillance and regulation.