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The Research Doesn’t Support Child Welfare Abolition []


By Richard Barth, Jill Duerr Berrick, Melissa Jonson-Reid, et al., The Imprint, October 5, 2020

Current calls to eliminate all elements of structural racism in the United States include proposals to abolish child welfare services. Alan Dettlaff and Kristen Weber, in an op-ed published by The Imprint this summer, based their abolition argument on the idea that “the child welfare system causes harm to Black children and we have known this for decades.” 

Their article has the laudable intent of creating a society free of maltreatment, but is wrong on the facts, and short on anything specific about how to protect and support maltreated children. Nonetheless, we hope that their call to upend child welfare will stimulate an exhaustive review of what we are currently doing and how to improve on it.

The importance of continuous child welfare reform that leads to the least intrusive, most effective and equitable service response demands an approach that builds on the science we have available. This is the challenge we have undertaken in a recent paper in the Journal of Public Child Welfare entitled “Outcomes Following Child Welfare Services: What Are They and Do They Differ for Black Children.”

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