Different Year, Different Jurisdiction, but the Same Findings Reforming Isn't Enough

Main Article Content

Kristen Weber
Bill Bettencourt


For the last fifteen years, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (“CSSP”) partnered with local agencies to use an Institutional Analysis (“IA”), a method that identifies how local child welfare institutions are not working for families. We have particularly focused on the experiences of Black families.

Through a comprehensive and varied qualitative data analyses, each IA strives to make the invisible and detrimental workings of systems more visible, that is, each IA reveals specific institutional features that contribute to poor outcomes for Black families. Findings from IAs have identified problematic policies, practices, protocols, resource distribution, and other features at the local, regional, state, and federal levels. From the twenty IAs conducted to date, we have substantial evidence of the insidious, pervasive, and mutating structural and institutional racism ingrained in child welfare systems. While the IAs have unique findings in each jurisdiction, there are also common findings, including: lack of meaningful and reasonable efforts to keep families together; policies that undermine existing networks of Black families; lack of due process and poor advocacy for Black families; inaccessible, inappropriate, and ineffective resources offered to families; coercive and punitive interventions; hyper surveillance of Black families; workforce fear of Black families, particularly Black fathers; and ineffective mechanisms of accountability that result in blaming families for the failures of workers, providers, and larger societal ills (lack of housing, lack of livable wages, etc.).

This Piece presents evidence compiled over the years which leads us to conclude that reforms within the current system will only go so far and that radical investment in community supports and anti-poverty efforts are necessary.

Author Biographies

Kristen Weber, National Center for Youth Law

Kristen Weber wrote this Article while a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Social Policy. She is now a Senior Director of Child Welfare at the National Center for Youth Law. 

Bill Bettencourt, University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work

Bill Bettencourt is a Senior Advisor to the upEND movement housed at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. 

Article Details

How to Cite
Weber, K., & Bettencourt, B. (2022). Different Year, Different Jurisdiction, but the Same Findings: Reforming Isn’t Enough. Columbia Journal of Race and Law, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.52214/cjrl.v12i1.9930