The Racialized Nature of Child Welfare Policies and the Social Control of Black Bodies


Black women are disproportionately involved in the child welfare system. This state-level intervention occurs at two levels—a higher likelihood of being (i) screened for drug use during pregnancy and (ii) reported to child welfare authorities after delivery. Consequently, they face further enmeshment in state-systems, including custody loss and lower reunification odds. Using evidence from the past forty years of research and media reports, we argue that systemic forces and policies largely contribute to racial disproportionality in the child welfare system, and assert this state intervention serves as a mechanism to control black reproduction.

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2020

Notes/Citation Information

Published in Social Politics, v. 27, issue 2.

© The Author(s) 2019. All rights reserved.

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Funding Information

This project was supported by grants R25-DA037190 (PI: Beckwith) and T32- DA035200 (PI: Rush) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.