As part of the growing movement to end the separation of children from their families, we were disappointed to read the article “What Happens When Abusive Parents Keep their Children” in the opinion section of the New York Times. The article asserts that calls to reduce racial disproportionality by ending foster care create an alternate scenario where children are left in unsafe and dangerous situations. 

We reject the author’s assertion that divesting from foster care leaves us with a single alternative–one where children remain in situations where they may be harmed. Conversely, those of us who are advocating to end foster care are both imagining and co-creating alternatives to foster care that intervene before harm occurs and respond to harm without causing more trauma. Foster care fails at both of these aims. The harm of separating children from their families is well documented, and cases detailing the abuse of children in foster care are found across the nation. 

Consequently, the child welfare system’s responses to harm often perpetuate greater harm to children and their families. In the tragic death of Phoenix Castro, the family was already under the surveillance of the child welfare system, but the system still could not prevent the death of baby Phoenix. Too often, as with this situation, the child welfare system reacts to harm but does not address the root causes that create circumstances ripe for harm in the first place. 

As those advocating to end foster care, we are thinking of ways to create tangible support for those struggling with substance use while keeping children safe. We are also thinking of ways to address harm that center prevention, accountability, and transformation so harm does not occur again. Those who, like the author, argue for increased resources to foster care continue to uphold a system that has failed children again and again, often with devastating consequences. As abolitionists, we believe we should aspire for something better. The safety of children, families, and communities is at the center of our work. This is why we are working to end foster care, which does not, and has never, provided true safety for children. 

 

 

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