the data

Since the establishment of US child protective agencies, there have been several reforms and legislative changes that have taken place to ensure continued efficacy in protecting America's children. Despite this however, child welfare systems have not evolved to a level that has the diversity of our country's families in mind. Rather than putting family preservation on the forefront, systems have conditioned us to believe that removing children from their homes is a viable solution. Many times, poverty is confused for neglect. Instead of understanding a majority of potential safety concerns stem from social inequities, the focus is shifted on caregiver assessments that are completed with the attitude that CPS involvement is solely their fault.

What we also need to recognize is the disparity that exists as a result of system practices. Families of color, especially Black families, are grossly overrepresented in most, if not all, societal facets—including CPS involvement. There is a substantial amount of data and research that provides evidence of the racial disparities that exist within child welfare systems. 


We at Our Sister Our Brother believe wholeheartedly that system change is possible, and we will continue to persevere in the fight for racial justice, and pathway to progressive solutions that keep children safe and families together.

Professors at Rutgers and Duke University did a study on four levels of CPS contact using 2014-2018 data from the 20 most populous counties in the US. These four levels included the cumulative risk of experiencing: (1) Investigation, (2) Substantiation, or confirmed maltreatment, (3) Foster Care, and (4) Termination of Parental Rights. 

lifetime risks in Maricopa county, by race

Why is contact so common and unequal?

  • Discrimination

    • Bias in surveillance and decision-making.

  • Differential risk of family crisis

    • Structural racism leads to unequal life chances.

  • Policy failure to address poverty and inequality

    • Historically anemic, racist, misogynist, and residual US welfare state (much worse post-welfare reform)

    • Deeply tied to regulation and restriction of Black, Indigenous, and immigrant women's reproductive rights.

*Frank Edwards, Sara Wakefield, Kieran Healy, and Christopher Wildeman: Contact with Child Protective Services is pervasive but unequally distributed by race and ethnicity in large US counties,  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2021).

*Cumulative prevalence of CPS contact is pervasive but unequally distributed by race and ethnicity in large US counties