How the Foster Care System Punishes the Poor

As vital calls to defund the police rise, some have been suggesting these funds be redirected to Health & Human Services departments. These departments, as scholar-activist Dorothy Roberts notes, tend to house child “welfare” and foster care, which provide punishment rather than care for many families, particularly Black and Brown families. As we call for defunding punitive police systems, it’s especially important to recognize the child “welfare” system for what it is: surveillance, policing and punishment. The following excerpt first appeared in Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms, published by The New Press and reprinted here with permission.

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