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The Right to Family: Bringing Human Rights to Bear on Racial and Socioeconomic Discrimination in the U.S. Child Welfare System

Silverman, Tessa

This paper discusses the ongoing patterns of racial and socioeconomic discrimination carried out by the U.S. child welfare system and analyzes their human rights implications as well as the potential strategic benefits of using human rights norms to frame and condemn those patterns. It finds that today’s child welfare system reflects many of the same fundamental abuses identified two decades ago as causing disproportionate harm to poor people of color, including excessive surveillance and suspicion of them, racialized constructions of families of color as less bonded, treatment of poverty as parental inadequacy, and prioritization of punishing parents over protecting children. The researcher analyzes these trends through the lens of international human rights law and finds that, not only are provisions of several treaties being violated, but that those treaties offer important tactical tools in this arena. Namely, they embrace a broader definition of racial discrimination than that available in U.S. law, they shift the blame for poverty from the individual to the State, and they instill a strong presumption in favor of family unity, all of which could help to combat the different forms of discrimination that have pervaded the child welfare system in the United States.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Rosenthal, Mila H.
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
July 24, 2019