Fighting to End the Family Policing System

What is the family policing system?

As defined by the UpEnd Movement, “We use the term family policing system to refer to what has more commonly been known as the child welfare system. We believe this term more accurately captures the roles this system plays in the lives of families, which include surveillance, regulation, and punishment, all roles associated with policing rather than children’s welfare. These roles are used to maintain the control and oppression of Black, Native, and Latinx families, which is also consistent with the practice of policing.” 

The legacy of family policing in the U.S. extends back to chattel slavery with the forced separation of families of African descent for the purpose of acquiring slave labor and continued with genocidal policies to remove Indigenous children from their homes for the purpose of disconnecting them from their culture and traditions with the explicit intent of erasing Indigenous identity.  

The family policing system is designed to “punish” parents by removing children from parental care as opposed to supporting families. The most common reason children are removed from their home is not imminent violence, but rather, a broad definition of neglect that includes poverty-related reasons like inadequate childcare, not having basic needs meet, or houselessness. Once in the foster care system, children often face sexual, emotional, and physical abuse, missed education, and breakdown of their social networks. 

Black and Indigenous families in the U.S. and in California continue to be disproportionately harmed by the family policing system. Over 50 percent of Black children in the U.S. will experience a child welfare investigation by age 18 and nearly 10 percent will be removed from their parents and placed into foster care. Native children are more likely than not to be adopted by non-Native families without connections to their tribal cultures and traditions. 

What we do 

We work to eradicate family policing system policies used to surveil, control, and punish primarily BIPOC families and support community alternatives that affirm the right to self-determination, dignity, and autonomy and help families thrive.  

Using an integrated advocacy approach, our work prioritizes shrinking the pipeline of families being swept into the system through policy advocacy, litigation, and organizing with directly impacted families.

Related links to work: