David C. Baum Memorial Lecture

Child Welfare and Civil Rights

While child welfare receives considerable media and scholarly at-tention, it is seldom treated as a civil rights issue. The child welfare sys-tem, however, is plagued by an alarming racial disparity, with black children especially representing a disproportionate share of the foster care population. In her lecture, Dorothy Roberts ties the child welfare system’s racial disparity to broader economic and racial inequities and argues that disparate state supervision and dissolution of black families inflict a racial harm. She concludes that viewing the disparity as a group-based civil rights violation calls for transforming the State’s focus from punishing impoverished parents to providing increased, noncoercive support for vulnerable families.

The full text of this David C. Baum Memorial Lecture is available to download as a PDF.