Child protection as surveillance of African American families

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The over-representation of black children in US out of home care results from racial bias in placement decisions and a political choice to address startling rates of child poverty by investigating parents instead of tackling poverty's societal roots. The impact of state disruption and supervision of African American families is intensified when it is concentrated in inner-city neighbourhoods – the system's ‘racial geography.’ A small case study of a black neighbourhood in Chicago with high rates of out of home placement found profound effects on both family and community social relationships, as well as reliance on child protective services for financial assistance, linking surveillance of black families to the neoliberal shrinking of public programmes. The surveillance of African American women by the child welfare system is also intensified by these women's disproportionate involvement in the prison system. Acknowledging racial bias in child welfare reveals the need to radically transform the system from one that relies too much on punitive disruption of families to one that generously supports them.

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Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law