Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare

Overview

Shattered Bonds is a stirring account of a worsening American social crisis--the disproportionate representation of black children in the U.S. foster care system and its effects on black communities and the country as a whole. Tying the origins and impact of this disparity to racial injustice, Dorothy Roberts contends that child-welfare policy reflects a political choice to address startling rates of black child poverty by punishing parents instead of tackling poverty's societal roots. Using conversations with ...
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Overview

Shattered Bonds is a stirring account of a worsening American social crisis--the disproportionate representation of black children in the U.S. foster care system and its effects on black communities and the country as a whole. Tying the origins and impact of this disparity to racial injustice, Dorothy Roberts contends that child-welfare policy reflects a political choice to address startling rates of black child poverty by punishing parents instead of tackling poverty's societal roots. Using conversations with mothers battling the Chicago child-welfare system for custody of their children, along with national data, Roberts levels a powerful indictment of racial disparities in foster care and tells a moving story of the women and children who earn our respect in their fight to keep their families intact.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
"It costs the federal government eleven times as much to provide foster care as to provide public aid to families," writes Northwestern law professor Roberts (Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty). Even worse, she charges that child removal policies are biased, targeting blacks over other racial groups. Roberts has reached these conclusions through the careful research and scrutiny of court documents, foster-care records, and police reports. She also looks at social factors-poverty, crime, and welfare provision among them-and determines that lack of income, rather than parental inadequacy, is the major cause of child abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, instead of alleviating problems associated with substandard housing, poor nutrition, or lack of supervision, child welfare agencies take children and plop them into middle-class, but not necessarily stable, households. While Roberts decries the destruction of low-income black families that this represents, her arguments about systemic racism are undermined by the fact that many foster care agencies are staffed by African Americans. A deeper look at how "racial profiling" is internalized by all sectors of society would make this a more credible text. Still, this work is recommended for all public and academic libraries as an enlightening study of a major social issue.-Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY
Kirkus Reviews
The author of Killing the Black Body (1997) looks at our national foster-care system, the disproportionate number of African-American children within that population, and the consequences for black families and communities. Roberts (Law/Northwestern Univ.) believes that the child welfare system is "a state-run program that disrupts, restructures, and polices Black families," noting that while half of all children in foster care are black, African-American children represent only 17 percent of US youths. The author concludes there is a two-tiered system in place: problems within affluent (white) families are treated as private matters, while foster care deals almost exclusively with poor (black) families. Even while asserting that institutionalized racism and classism are embedded within the child welfare system, Roberts notes that "severe violence toward children is more likely to occur in households with annual incomes below the poverty line." Contrasting children of divorce with children in foster care, the author suggests that in the former, a child's relationship with the non-custodial parent is usually protected, while in the latter, the goal is to sever parental ties so that a child may be adopted. Maintaining that family deterioration leads to community disintegration, Roberts calls for raising the minimum wage in an effort to reduce poverty, the aggressive creation of jobs for the unemployed, a national health service, high-quality subsidized child care, preschool education, and paid parental leave for all families. Curiously absent from Roberts's argument is any mention of the fathers' role in these extremely poor families, such as their obligation to pay child support andto help rear their children. She tends to romanticize the poor, assigning to them no accountability for their current circumstances. Also troubling is her insistence on parent/child reunification in all but the most extreme cases of abuse-even in those families where the parent has a persistent drug habit and all of the children have been born chemically dependent. A provocative argument stressing community over individual responsibility.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465070589
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 11/1/1901
  • Pages: 352
  • Lexile: 1540L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.42 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Facing the Racial Reality of Child Welfare v
Part 1 Destroying Black Families in the Name of Child Protection 1
1. The Color of America's Child Welfare System
2. The System's Inferior Treatment of Black Children
3. Tracing the Disparity to Black Child Poverty
4. Is Racism the Cause?
5. The System's Fundamental Flaw
6. A Racist Institution?
Part 2 The New Politics of Child Welfare 101
1. The Assault on Family Preservation
2. Why Family Preservation Fails
3. Is Adoption the Answer?
4. Welfare Reform: Ending Aid to Poor Children
5. Locking Up Parents and Children
Part 3 The System's Racial Harm 221
1. Protection of Family Rights
2. A Theory of Group-Based Harm
Conclusion: Child Welfare and Social Justice
Notes 277
Acknowledgments 317
Index 321
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