"When the Welfare People Come": Race and Class in the US Child Protection System

by Don Lash


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Malcolm X, describing his childhood experience of “when the welfare people came” and introduced him to the US child protection system, called it “legal, modern slavery—however kindly intentioned.” That shocking characterization obscures some of the complexities of the state response to childhood poverty, but it reflects sentiments that are common among communities of color, where child welfare investigations are most concentrated. A radical assessment of institutional racism in the child welfare system is needed now more than ever.

In this sweeping look at the history and politics of the US child welfare system, “When the Welfare People Come” exposes the system—from the “orphan trains” and Indian boarding schools to current practices in child protective investigations, foster care, and mandated services—arguing that it constitutes a mechanism of control exerted over poor and working-class parents and children. Don Lash reveals the system’s role in the regulation of family life under capitalism and details the deep and continuing consequences of what happens “when the welfare people come.” Including first-person vignettes of parents, children, and workers in the US child protection system, Lash also offers practical and cogent ideas for its improvement and transformation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608467433
Publisher: Haymarket Books
Publication date: 02/07/2017
Pages: 222
Sales rank: 641,145
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Don Lash: Don Lash is an attorney who has practiced in the areas of disability rights, education and child welfare for more than twenty years.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The "Orphan Trains"-Then and Now 19

2 Moving Toward a Racialized Child Welfare System 31

3 Parents with Disabilities 59

4 Foster Youth 77

5 Foster Parents 99

6 Juvenile "Justice" 107

7 Toiling Inside the Bureaucracy 117

8 The Future of Child Welfare? 143

9 Real Reform 153

10 Child Welfare and Social Reproduction 169

11 Socialism and the Parent-Child Relationship 179

Acknowledgments 189

Appendix: From Rights to Reality-a Plan for Parent Advocacy and Family-Centered Child Welfare Reform 193

Notes 195

Index 211

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