Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families—And How Abolition Can Build a Safer World

Basic: Perseus. Apr. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9781541675445. $30. SOC SCI
The U.S. child welfare system is so fundamentally flawed that abolishing it is the only way to end its destruction of Black children and Black families, argues Roberts (law and sociology, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare). The system rests on racist myths and operates with a long legacy of oppressive policies originating in slavery to monitor, regulate, and punish Black families, she explains. Her chapters reveal the disproportionately racial dimensions of government agents invading poor and low-income communities, casting children into a foster-care-industrial complex where they are routinely entangled in the carceral state. Punctuated with poignant cases of systemic horrors, the compelling narrative delivers data-rich analysis that reflects decades of research, observation, and advocacy for Black children and mothers. It exposes the ugly demographics and politics of America’s destructive family-policing child welfare system that Roberts conjoins with oppressive policies of mass incarceration and welfare-restructuring that seek to entrench Black subordination.
VERDICT Readers at every level, especially policy-makers and -implementers, might well embrace this work as a primer for moving past a harmful system and creating a reimagined ideology and infrastructure to humanely care for families and keep children safe. Roberts’s latest is necessary reading.
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