The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Minority Issue
Can a system developed from intrusion into the lives of the poor be reconstituted to provide services that will nurture the quality of the lives of all children? If not, then the system should be scrapped and start over. Child Protective Services (CPS) has never recovered from its roots in distrust and discrimination against the poor and its mistaken defense of a false moral high-ground, which is perceived from the narrow focus of child-saving rather than on the legitimate and long term needs of children. The foster care system’s lack of concern for natural parents reflects centuries of a dual family law—one for the rich and one for the poor.
A few changes could help solve the problems with CPS. First, the State must make it its business to use State resources to prevent the breakup of families. Second, in situations where the child must be removed from one or both parents, the State must reconstitute the structure of the substitute care system so that it reflects the support system available to successful families. Third, if the child must be removed and if the parent is not able to rehabilitate sufficiently for the return of the child, then the State must act consistently with the policies of private family law. The focus, as the alternative to returning the child, should be to maintain the maximum amount of contact possible between the child and the parents, while making decisions actually based on the child’s needs. If these changes can not be implemented, the entire system needs to be scrapped.
Ana P. Novoa, Count the Brown Faces: Where is the “Family” in the Family Law of Child Protective Services, 1 Scholar 5 (1999).