Foster Care Industrial Complex: It Is Not a Broken System, It Is a System That Needs to be Broken!

What It Means to Abolish Child Welfare As We Know It

By Alan Dettlaff, Kristen Weber, Maya Pendleton, Bill Bettencourt and Leonard Burton
The Imprint


The trauma and harm to families and communities caused by intrusive child welfare system interventions is well documented by multiple sources – to the degree that many argue the system can be more accurately viewed as the family policing system, family regulation system, or foster care industrial complex.

In our paper It Is Not a Broken System, It Is a System That Needs to be Broken, we outline research that shows that the act of forcible separation of children from their parents is a source of significant and lifelong trauma.

As we summarized in the article,

“trauma associated with separation has been shown to result in cognitive delays, depression, increased aggression, behavioral problems, poor educational achievement, and other harmful outcomes.”

Youth and parents who have experienced child welfare services regularly testify to the harm of separation and the failures of and trauma created by both short- and long-term involvement with the foster care system.

Advocates and those working to reform child welfare from both within the system and without, regularly document this harm.

For example, in the most recent court report, M.D. ex re Stukenberg v. Abbott, a consent decree focused on reforming Texas’ child welfare system, the federal court monitor stated on page 11:

“The Texas child welfare system continues to expose children in permanent managing conservatorship to an unreasonable risk of serious harm.”

It is within the context of this knowledge and understanding and our many years of concerted reform efforts that we have launched the upEND movement, an emerging collaborative aimed at creating a society in which the forcible separation of children from their families is no longer an acceptable solution when help is needed.

This movement seeks to protect the health of children, which requires us to center our work around keeping them with their families and communities.

Read the full article at The Imprint.

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