Stoneleigh Fellow Sarah Katz spoke to Temple University’s Temple Law News about her Fellowship to promote racial justice in the child protection system.
Temple Law Professor Sarah Katz has been awarded a three-year Fellowship from the prestigious Stoneleigh Foundation. Katz, who teaches and runs Temple’s Family Law Litigation Clinic, will work to promote racial justice in the child protection system. We checked in with Professor Katz to understand more about her work and her goals.
Q: You don’t mince words. In your Fellowship proposal, you open a discussion of the problem by stating that “the child protection system has a systemic racism problem.” Tell us more about that, especially as it impacts families in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.
SK: Black and brown children are overrepresented in every aspect of the child protection system nationally, and in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. One significant reason for this is that child neglect is often conflated with poverty; most people don’t realize that at least 85% of the children in foster care are there due to allegations of neglect, not child abuse. Black and brown children are more likely to be reported for suspected child abuse or neglect. Over 50 percent of Black children will experience a child abuse or neglect investigation by their eighteenth birthday (nearly double the rate of white children); nearly 10 percent of Black children will be removed from their parents and placed in foster care (double the rate of white children); and one in 41 Black children will have their parents’ rights legally terminated, severing their connection to their family of origin. In Philadelphia, 65 percent of children involved with dependency court are Black, despite the fact that Black children are only 43 percent of the children in Philadelphia. These numbers represent real children and families, and certain communities throughout Philadelphia and Pennsylvania live with the real and present trauma of family separation or the threat of family separation every day. Scholars, such as Dorothy Roberts, have concluded that this excessive level of intervention in Black and brown families’ lives is by design, with the goal of policing and surveillance of Black and brown families, rather than providing help and support. This is why I, like many others, now call “child protection” the family policing (or family regulation) system.