Achieving Racial Justice For Families Through Legal Education and Advocacy

The Challenge

Black and brown families disproportionately experience significant harm and trauma as a result of involvement with the child protection system. While the stark racialized impact of this system has been clear for decades, despite numerous reform efforts, Black and brown children continue to be more likely to be reported, less likely to receive services to remain safely in their homes, more likely to be separated from their families and for longer periods of time, and more likely to have their ties to their families of origin legally severed. Nationally, there is a groundswell of organizing led by individuals with lived experience in the system, namely parents and former foster youth, to draw attention to these racialized harms and reduce the footprint of the system on their communities. This project seeks to engage lawyers and other stakeholders in supporting and building upon these existing efforts in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania to address systemic racism in the child protection system.

The Project

Sarah Katz is working to promote racial justice in the child protection system by deepening lawyers’ understanding of their own role in perpetuating systemic harms and responsibility to help dismantle systemic racism. Through research, writing, teaching and advocacy that listens to and is informed by those impacted, her work will center the lived experiences of Black and brown families in promoting racial justice in the child protection system.  As part of her Fellowship, Sarah will research best practices for advocacy grounded in lived experience, with particular attention to how lawyers can understand their role as collaborators and participants in the work.  She will develop materials for use by law professors, attorneys, and law students to deepen critical thinking, to reflect on the importance of letting those most impacted lead, and to let this understanding drive systemic reforms.  Her ultimate goals are to create a new law clinic focused on achieving racial justice for Black and brown families impacted by the child protection system, and to help transform how lawyers and advocates perceive their role in this work.

The Stoneleigh Fellowship will enable Sarah to:

  • Research best practices for advocacy grounded in the lived experiences of those harmed by systemic injustices of the child protection system with particular attention to the role of lawyers as collaborators and the ethical responsibility of lawyers to work towards remedy and systemic reform.
  • Develop legal scholarship and practice guides which assist law professors and attorneys in thinking, teaching, and acting critically to center the voices and experiences of Black and brown families impacted the child protection system and understand their own role as participants and collaborators in systemic reform efforts.
  • Launch a law school clinic where students engage in systemic advocacy for racial justice for families involved with the child protection system, which is grounded in and responsive to the needs of those with lived experience with the child protection system.

Sarah Katz, JD

Stoneleigh Fellow

2023 – 2026

Clinical Professor of Law

Temple University