The American Bar Association has called on legal professionals to come to terms with how the child welfare system’s historic roots in slavery continues to harm Black families.
This month, the American Bar Association urged federal state, local, territorial, and tribal bar associations to teach attorneys and other legal professionals about systemic racism Black families face.
“By recognizing how specific laws and policies have devalued Black families and normalized systemic racism, we can begin to actively re-evaluate and assess laws that have been informed by racist goals or assumptions, undermining Black family integrity,” ABA Resolution 606 reads.
The association highlighted the devastating outcomes of specific child welfare policies including the 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which “reinforced discriminatory impact for Black families” and the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, which incentivized adoption with federal funding and required state child welfare agencies to pursue termination of parental rights under certain conditions. Today, Black children are nearly 2.5 times more likely than white children in foster care to lose their parents to court-ordered termination of parental rights.
“Examining and acknowledging America’s history of anti-Black racism and how it has impacted families since times of slavery and into the modern-day child welfare field is necessary,” the resolution stated, adding that it took account of its own role in racism in the field — including banning Black attorneys from ABA membership until 1943.
To understand the backdrop of contemporary laws that “devalue Black families, the resolution insists that judges, legislators and other law professions must listen and include Black families in the solutions.
“The ABA can support and implement a vision for child welfare emerging from the most important leaders in this space — Black children, parents, and family members whose lives have been affected by child welfare.”
The 24-page resolution was one of several the American Bar Association adopted early this month. In April, the New York State Bar Association similarly adopted a resolution that acknowledged racism in today’s child welfare system that is linked to slavery.