Connect with us


It’s time for a radical overhaul of the child welfare system | Opinion



A little girl who's been in and out of foster care sits on a bed at St. Joseph's Orphanage in 2018.

Child Protective Services is an agency tasked with the protection of children who are at risk of harm. They are supposed to be a safety net for vulnerable children, but there have been cases throughout the state where their failure to protect children has resulted in tragic consequences.

African American children are disproportionately represented in CPS care. Studies have found that over 50% of Black children in the U.S. will experience a child welfare investigation by the age of 18 (nearly double the rate of white children). And almost 10% of Black children will be removed from their parents and placed into foster care (double the rate of white children).

This has contributed to their higher rates of death in CPS custody. While the number of deaths is relatively small compared to the number of cases CPS handles, even one child’s death is too many, and the system needs to be held accountable for these tragic outcomes. Here are some things that need to be addressed to make sure every child in the system remains safe:

First, there is a severe lack of oversight and accountability in the child welfare system. When children die in CPS care, those responsible are rarely held accountable. This lack of accountability perpetuates a cycle of neglect and abuse, further endangering children in the care of CPS.

One example of this is the case of Aniya Day-Garrett, who was killed by her mother despite multiple reports of abuse to the Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services in Ohio. In 2020, Aniya’s father was awarded $5 million after filing a suit that claimed inaction by CCFS contributed to his daughter’s murder.

There needs to be a radical overhaul of the system to ensure greater transparency and accountability. This includes regular reporting on the welfare of children in CPS care, a system for tracking and addressing complaints, and holding those responsible for any harm to children accountable.

Second, CPS is often understaffed and overworked. Ohio’s county child protective services agencies face unprecedented caseworker turnover, unmanageable caseloads and unfilled vacancies. The average tenure of a CPS caseworker – from their first case to their last – is less than two years, according to the Public Children Services Association of Ohio. This can result in neglectful or inadequate care for children in CPS custody.

Social workers are often responsible for too many cases, which makes it difficult for them to provide individualized attention that each child needs. This can lead to children falling through the cracks and not receiving the care they need. In 2021, 18 children in Ohio died while in state custody, highlighting the need for greater resources and support for CPS workers. Therefore, CPS needs to increase its staff to ensure that social workers can provide adequate care for the children in their custody.

Third, systemic racism is a significant contributor to the overrepresentation of African American children in CPS care. Author Dorothy Roberts details this in her book, “Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World.” The child welfare system has a long history of racial bias, and this bias has contributed to the higher rates of African American children being removed from their homes and placed in foster care. This bias also affects the quality of care that African American children receive while in foster care. For example, in 2015, an African American mother was accused of killing her 5-month-old daughter, which raised concerns about the quality of care provided by CPS and the potential for racial bias in decision-making.

To address this issue, CPS must take proactive steps to eliminate systemic racism. This includes providing anti-racism training for all staff, hiring more Black social workers and supervisors, and ensuring that decision-making regarding child welfare is free from racial bias.

The failure of CPS to protect African American children is not only a moral failing, but it is also a violation of their basic human rights. Children have the right to be protected from harm, and the state has an obligation to ensure that this right is upheld. The fact that African American children are dying at such alarming rates while in the care of CPS is an indication that the state is failing in its obligation to protect them.

It is time for a radical overhaul of the child welfare system. We need to address the systemic racism that is built into the system, and we need to provide the necessary resources to ensure that social workers can adequately care for the children in their custody. We also need to hold those responsible for the deaths of children in CPS care accountable for their actions.

Ronald Hummons is a mental health activist who lives in Reading.

Ronald Hummons
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply