The upEND Movement seeks to end state-sanctioned separation of children from their families and reimagine care so that all families are supported and can thrive. To do so, we must collectively address the societal failures and disinvestment in Black, Native, and Latinx communities which have resulted in food insecurity, poverty, lack of affordable and safe housing, and lack of meaningful prevention services, including effective and readily available substance use and mental health assistance. Children and families should be supported through responses that promote healing and well-being, rather than surveillance and punishment. This involves creating societal conditions where children, youth, and families can live safely, have enough to eat, have adequate financial and social supports, and have equitable opportunities to thrive in strong and healthy communities. We support increased investments in families and communities that acknowledge and make amends for past harms and injustices; actively expand financial support to families, specifically ensuring that the needs of Black and Native families are met; and support families, as defined by families, in ways that promote healing and instill hope so children and youth can thrive.
Implement a reparations framework.
A reparations framework “outlines five elements—repair, restoration, acknowledgment, cessation, and nonrepetition.”67 A reparations framework acknowledges and repairs the past harms and injustices Black people have experienced in this country because of slavery, continued racial oppression, and intentional, state-sanctioned family separation.68 Reparations also requires acknowledging and repairing the harm of genocide, colonization, and repeated violations of treaties and trusts done to Native communities.69 Some professional associations have acknowledged and apologized for their role in harming Black and Native communities.70 The family policing system, and all systems and professions associated with state-sanctioned separation of children from their families, must do the same by describing, acknowledging, and apologizing for their role in perpetuating systemic and entrenched harms to Black and Native families. Reparations requires working with organizers and community leaders to detail what repair and restoration looks like. Repair and restoration should at a minimum include monetary compensation to Black people who have actively been deprived of amassing wealth and property over centuries.71 Reparations includes honoring and supporting tribal sovereignty and requires financial investments in housing, health, and education services as promised in past trusts and treaties.72 To cease state-sanctioned family separation and not repeat or recreate oppressive forms of “help,” reparations require a sustainable mechanism to identify and stop harms done to individuals and communities financially, environmentally, and socially. Ultimately, this work requires dismantling oppressive systems—White supremacy, racism, homophobia, transphobia, patriarchy, xenophobia, and racial capitalism—to create a society where harms are not repeated.
Our current economic system has increasingly concentrated wealth in the hands of a few. This economic inequality is profoundly intertwined with racism, specifically anti-Blackness, and embedded within our laws and policies. Consequently, overwhelming numbers of families—specifically Black, Native, and Latinx families—are trapped in poverty, earning low wages, with limited financial support for affordable housing, food, child care, and health and mental health care. How society supports families has deep and racist roots in determinations of who is deemed worthy of support and the requirements that must be demonstrated to access financial resources.73 Current programs for financial support are fragmentary and can prove overwhelmingly burdensome to access.74 Research has documented the stress of poverty on families and on parenting.75 This stress is within our collective power to end by ensuring a universal basic income for all adults, a child allowance for each child, paid parental leave for families welcoming new children, paid sick leave, and a job guarantee with a living wage. Immigration status should not determine access to these or other financial supports.
Guarantee housing as a human right.
No child or family should ever be without safe and healthy housing. A housing guarantee ensures that all children can grow up in healthy housing with their families. Healthy housing means eliminating environmental toxins caused by environmental racism.76 Families must have housing that is free of pollutants including lead paint, unhealthy water, and poor air quality. Practices such as eviction and foreclosure that create homelessness must be discontinued.
Expand support for other basic needs.
There are many critical supports that families need, which require significant policy and practice changes, including access to quality food, transportation, child care, and health and mental health care. Child care must be safe and support the developmental needs of children, and be readily available during the hours needed by working parents.77 Asset tests and means tests for disability support must end as they often relegate people receiving disability support to poverty.78 Public transportation that is environmentally friendly should be expanded, accessible, and free for all families. These supports should be ongoing and permanent.
Invest in non-coercive supports that help families without surveillance and punishment.
Many communities have a history of providing one another with mutual aid, and such efforts have received renewed attention during the COVID-19 pandemic.79 Communities also spend money supporting families with both concrete needs, such as housing, food, and utilities, as well as other supports such as parenting groups, breastfeeding support groups, non-coercive home visiting programs, and multi-age community support centers. Investments should be made to ensure community support systems are able to provide resources to meet families’ needs, while programs that do not support families and instead rely on policing and surveillance through mandated services (e.g., involuntary drug treatment programs and mental health facilities) should be ended. Ultimately, families should feel able to seek and receive help when needed and not experience judgment, oversight, or removal of their children.