Child and family well-being can no longer be defined by systems grounded in anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, and White supremacy. Well-being must be defined by families and communities from their own perspectives of being loved, valued, and safe. Carceral systems, including the family policing system, fail to recognize humanity and instead treat people as disposable. This dehumanizing frame drives interventions that destroy family connections and mandate services and treatment that do not remedy the larger oppression families face. Family policing systems rely on many different contracted services and programs, and while some families are connected to services, these services are not consistently accessible, appropriate, effective, and affordable. Ultimately, the family policing system is not held accountable for the services they provide. Instead, any failures to produce changes deemed necessary by the system are blamed on individuals and families, rather than on the quality or availability of the services themselves. Reimagining care moves away from mandatory treatment and ends the surveillance, monitoring, and compliance that exist in carceral systems.
Invest in community-led efforts to redefine care and well-being.
Concepts of care and well-being should be defined and supported by families and communities. Investment in communities is needed to support the process of redefining care and well-being as many communities have been depleted of funding and infrastructure through historical divestment. There are many examples from the federal and state levels of efforts to support community planning and assistance that are designed and led by community members.80 Similar large-scale investments in communities to pay for community members’ time and expertise should be made. Once defined, those who work with families and communities—including school personnel, health care providers, child care workers, and others—should be guided by and held accountable to these definitions, their accompanying principles, and their outcomes.
Organize services and other forms of intervention around families’ unique needs.
Communities should have the responsibility for working with families to identify the services that will best meet families’ needs and for holding providers accountable for the quality and effectiveness of their services. Interventions such as healing circles, mutual aid, church counseling, and peer support networks, which may not meet Eurocentric evidence-based standards, may be the most effective interventions in meeting families’ needs. Families and communities should be a critical part of defining “evidence” and how it is measured.81 Ultimately, what families need to thrive should be the standard used to determine the appropriateness of services. This may be different for each family.
Use a holistic view of the individual and family.
Evidence-based interventions, as currently defined and implemented, often provide targeted support to a parent or a child and focus on a specific aspect of support such as parenting, substance use, or mental health. Families impacted by the family policing system repeatedly describe case plans for a predetermined set of services that do not match their unique needs.82 Further, supports offered do not work together to ensure basic financial stability—support that includes housing, food security, affordable health and mental health care, quality and flexible child care, and a livable wage. This type of care neglects the larger context in which families operate. Services should be available to families outside of carceral systems in ways that meet their holistic needs and account for the larger systemic issues, including societal racism and oppression, that serve as barriers to achieving their desired goals. Prevention and intervention funding should be directed to programs that are trusted within communities and in communities that have been most impacted by historical divestment. Design and evaluation of programs should be led by families and communities.