Who We Are

The upEND Movement is a collaborative movement that works to abolish the existing child welfare system, which is built on a model of surveillance and separation and more accurately described as a family policing system. Abolition requires ending this oppressive system AND imagining and recreating the ways in which society supports children, families, and communities in being safe and thriving.

The Center for the Study of Social Policy and the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work collaborated to create the upEND movement. While upEND exists as a national movement with many collaborators and contributors, upEND is currently housed at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

Why upEND the system?

We have known for decades that Black, Native, and, in many jurisdictions, Latinx children have disproportionately high rates of family separation and involvement with child welfare systems. We also know that foster care causes trauma and harm. In addition to the harm of family separation, children experience trauma from failed or unsafe placements, multiple moves while in care, and loss of connections to friends, extended family, and school. Children who spend extended time in foster care are at high risk for a host of negative outcomes including poverty, homelessness, joblessness, mental health disorders, and involvement with the criminal punishment system.

We strive for abolition because we understand that the biggest threats to child safety and well-being are ingrained anti-Blackness in our policies and practices; economic exploitation produced by racial capitalism; the continuing cultural genocide produced by colonialism; gender oppression sustained through patriarchy; and White supremacist norms of good parenting, family, and safety—norms that maintain power in the hands of oppressive systems. We seek to build a society where children, families, and communities self-determine what well-being and safety mean for them and are supported with the resources to do so.

We build on the work of reproductive justice, which centers bodily autonomy and asserts that parents should live in a society where they have power to make decisions about how and when they will parent and the ability to raise their families in conditions that are free of oppression. In other words, we seek to build a world where the care, support, and well-being of children, families, and communities is fully realized.

The upEND Movement Approach

The upEND Movement works to create a society in which the forcible separation of children from their parents is no longer an acceptable solution for families in need. We do this in partnership with others working together to foster anti-racist structures and practices to keep children safe and protected in their homes and communities.

  • upEND identifies and describes racist policies, practices, and research that supports the current child welfare system and maintains racial inequities.
  • upEND promotes reform efforts within current child welfare systems that seek to limit the use of involuntary removal to better serve children and families in their communities while new (or even old, but ignored) anti-racist responses and interventions are designed and implemented.
  • upEND is focused on building social and economic supports that replace the need for child welfare intervention. upEND is about ensuring that child neglect and abuse are recognized as a societal failing, not a family’s failing. upEND is about working together with families and communities to address the societal failings and racist responses to families in need.
  • upEND promotes abolishing the current child welfare system as we know it today. This goal does not make the need for foster homes and child protective services interventions immediately obsolete but prioritizes building critical systems of support for families and communities. upEND is about child safety, well-being, and permanency—important goals that cannot be effectively achieved for all children within the current system.
  • upEND joins with those working on responses to families that are based in communities and keep families together. Ultimately, this is not the ending of care but it is developing new systems of care for families that do not primarily rely on foster care and institutional care. Families and communities become the first responders to crises rather than state intervention. This is about prevention and care, from and within communities.
  • upEND supports anti-racist policies and practices and joins with organizers working on adequate, safe, and affordable housing; guaranteed minimum income; paid sick leave; affordable and high quality child care; quality and accessible public education; affordable and accessible health care; a child allowance; meaningful access to food; and other interventions that create meaningful supports for children and their families.

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