Header Image that reads Help is NOT on the Way: How Family Policing Perpetuates State Directed Terror

The child welfare system is not a helping system. The system subjugates, surveils, regulates, and punishes families – families who are disproportionately Black and Indigenous. It acts as a family policing system. The system and its supporters portray family policing as a legitimate, supportive helping system – one that protects the safety and well-being of children through necessary state-sanctioned interventions. But the outcomes for children and families are abysmal. Children have significantly worse outcomes as a result of system involvement. Families do not experience healing and children are not safer. Ultimately, the impact of the system on children, families, and communities underscores the ways in which the system functions to maintain anti-Blackness, White supremacy, racial capitalism, and colonialism. We can collectively do better.

As we’ve developed our ideas on abolition of family policing, we saw how family policing is built on a foundation of carceral logic. We came to understand that carceral logic is as deeply embedded in the family policing system as it is in our systems of prisons and policing. That led us on a yearlong exploration about what carceral logic is and how it manifests in the family policing system. Help is NOT on the Way: How Family Policing Perpetuates State Directed Terror presents the results of this exploration which were developed in collaboration with a team of upEND contributors – Victoria Copeland, Brianna Harvey, Joyce McMillan, Maya Pendleton, and Emma Peyton Williams. We were also fortunate to collaborate with Lizartistry to create powerful graphics to accompany each document.

Moving forward we hope to continue developing this line of thought as well as develop the alternative logic that should be used to care for children and families in their homes and communities. As always, our intention is to contribute to work already occurring and provoke new actions and innovations from others. We invite you to build on these ideas, share with us the ideas you are developing, and let us know ideas we missed.

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Derecka Purnell and Dorothy Roberts keynote picture

Visit the upEND videos page to access recordings from our annual convening How We endUP | A Future without Family Policing held on October 26 – 27, 2021!

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News & Resources

upEND Resource

How We endUP: A Future Without Family Policing

How We endUP puts forth ideas about how we can, in community, improve support and care for children, youth, and families as we move towards the abolition of family policing. We invite you to build on these ideas, share with us the actions you are undertaking, and let us know ideas we missed…more.

June 18, 2021

upEND Blog

The Power of Co-Opting: Language Is Changing, But Will It Change the Status Quo?

Language is powerful. The words we use signal how we make sense of the world – and people – around us. When we call a system that surveils, regulates, punishes, and forcibly separates families a “child welfare system,” we misconstrue that system’s purpose and actions…more.

April 7, 2022

upEND Resource

How We Map: A Creative Exploration Space – Archive and Reflection

How We Map was a two-day creative exploration created by Benjamin Lundberg Torres Sánchez for upEND Movement’s How We endUP convening in 2021. Through this experience the conference community began to collectively map conditions that uphold the Child Welfare Industrial Complex…more.

December 14, 2021

upEND Blog

Finding Space to Imagine: How White Supremacy Culture Stifles Creativity

Launched just over a year ago, the upEND Movement seeks to end the child welfare system…as it relies on surveillance and separation of children from their families. Many are calling for reforming…more.

August 11, 2021

Early Learning Nation

New upEND Publication Calls for Fundamental Transformation of Family Policing

Last fall, I wrote about upEND, a new project focused on addressing structural inequities in the country’s child welfare system…more.

July 27, 2021

The Grio

The foster care system and others failed Ma’Khia Bryant—and Black kids like her

W.E.B. DuBois wrote these words in 1904 to convey the mean-spiritedness of mainstream life to the first generation of Black children growing up in the decades after slavery. His words still ring true today…more.

April 23, 2021

Columbia Journal of Race and Law

Making Possible the Impossible: A Black Feminist Perspective on Child Welfare Abolition

In 1863, Harriet Tubman and eight of her trusted scouts orchestrated the Combahee River uprising in South Carolina. The uprising, which followed a year of planning and organizing…more.

February 20, 2021

A Second Chance

Being with Family Is a Human Right: We Can’t and Won’t Deny It

Being with family is a human right. That’s where this article should end—with the common-sense fact that drives the work of A Second Chance, Inc. Yet, we are continually…more.

December 14, 2020

Mother Jones

Do We Need to Abolish Child Protective Services?

On a steamy Saturday in late June, Joyce McMillan stood outside the Brooklyn Family Court wearing a T-shirt that had “TRUTH OVER TRADITION” emblazoned across the front. A crowd…more.

December 10, 2020

Journal of Public Child Welfare

It is not a broken system, it is a system that needs to be broken: the upEND movement to abolish the child welfare system

The child welfare system disproportionately harms Black children and families through systemic over-surveillance, over-involvement, and the resulting adverse outcomes associated with foster care. Ending this harm…more.

September 6, 2020

The Imprint

What It Means to Abolish Child Welfare As We Know It

The trauma and harm to families and communities caused by intrusive child welfare system interventions is well documented by multiple sources – to the degree that many argue the system can be more accurately viewed as the family policing… more.

October 24, 2020

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