It is clear that child ‘protection’ services conflate poverty with neglect in order to take children, predominantly Black and of color, from their mothers or other primary care givers. Paying mothers for their care would help dismantle the family policing system, as Dorothy Roberts urges.[1] In years of campaigning with family members impacted by the unjust child welfare system, we have heard this lament again and again: “if they can pay foster families, why can’t they pay us to take care of our own children?” We included that as part of our demands, and the Movement for Black Lives and others are now demanding that mothers get the same level of funding that foster parents receive.[2]

Helping mothers helps children. Studies consistently show that if mothers have money the entire family eats. Seventy percent of impoverished people in the US are women and children—disproportionately Black, Latinx, Indigenous—and they are the ones most often removed from their families.[3] Mothers who are victims of domestic abuse are additionally targeted for child removal; they are charged with failure to protect while the problem is lack of money to escape and lack of action against the perpetrator. As caregivers, caring for our own children or for those of other family members, we need money and other support, not separation from the children we care for.

Take the case of Ms. Carolyn Hill, a low-income Black single mother:

“My nieces were taken because I don’t have a high school diploma and they lied on me. They said I didn’t have housing. But I have lived in the same house for 23 years. And there’s food in the fridge. They were thriving under my care.”[4] 

Ms. Hill’s nieces were removed from her and placed with wealthier family members with whom the children had no bond. She is a campaigner with DHS-Give Us Back Our Children in Philadelphia, PA.

When Ms. Jennina Gorman, a Native American mother with the PA Poor People’s Campaign, won her children back, they were traumatized:

“After a battle of seven years, two of my children were returned having severe psychological trauma. I was given no preparation or forewarning that they even had these conditions, and no support or resources.”[5]

Ms. Sabreen, a low-income Black grandmother with a disability in Los Angeles, CA, saw her granddaughter detained when she was rushed to the hospital with a medical emergency. Though she was not admitted, her granddaughter was placed with a distant relative she barely knew who had more money. She says:

“They’re driven to divide families. The bond that my granddaughter and I shared was treated as a threat, while they lied and schemed to be sure I didn’t get her back.”[6]

Ms. Sabreen now campaigns with DCFS-Give Us Back Our Children.

The bravery and resourcefulness of mothers and grandmothers like Ms. Hill, Ms. Gorman, and Ms. Sabreen are repeated across the United States as heartbroken mothers and other primary caregivers struggle to get back the children that were taken by what Dorothy Roberts calls the family policing and carceral system.[7] 

Family members are up against an army of social workers, lawyers, and others whose income depends on the family regulation system. To family members going through the system, this army is the police. In spelling this out, Dorothy Roberts has strengthened us and forcefully made our case.[8]

We call for the money child welfare services spend on removing children and on foster care to go into the hands of mothers and other primary caregivers. We demand an immediate stop to the practice of TANF money[9] being shuffled to agencies for removing children, and we demand an increase in TANF cash benefits. We earned this money for our work as caregivers.

We demand a Care Income Now for unwaged caregivers.[10] We refuse the brutality with which our children are snatched from loving relationships and shuffled around like objects. 

We support these measures:

— Representative Gwen Moore’s Poverty Is Not Child Neglect Act, which bans federal funds from being used to separate children from their parents solely due to poverty.[11] 

— Representative Gwen Moore and former Representative Marcia Fudge’s Worker Relief and Credit Reform Act, which redefines work to include unpaid caregiving in the Earned Income Tax Credit.[12] The proposal has been reintroduced in the 2021–2022 congressional session.[13]

— A Care Income for People and Planet as put forward in the Green New Deal for Europe and advanced by the Global Women’s Strike and Women of Color GWS.[14] The Poor People's Moral Justice Jubilee Policy Platform has adopted it, calling for “a care income to recognize the economic contribution of routine housework, childcare, tending to the elderly and other household or non-household members and other unpaid activities related to household maintenance,” as well as to “[p]rohibit the use of any funds allocated towards welfare spending to go towards family separation or child removal.”[15]

— Fully-refundable child tax credits as proposed in President Biden’s COVID relief package.[16] We demand that they be made permanent; be paid to the mother or other primary caregivers as the only guarantee that children’s needs will be met; and that there is no garnishing for past debts or reductions from other assistance families receive.

We welcome the recent call from celebrities for a Marshall Plan for Moms, a monthly salary for mothers.[17] But it must begin at the bottom with all of us who are struggling to feed our children and to protect them from the sexist, racist, and classist family police.  

Take away our poverty not our children!


* Every Mother is a Working Mother Network, Global Women's Strike, and Women of Color in the Global Women's Strike are grassroots organizations of directly impacted mothers and other caregivers engaging in collective self-help advocacy. We have fourteen years of experience fighting child welfare cases and working to change child welfare policy in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, as well as decades of experience fighting locally, nationally, and internationally for money for caregivers and our right to welfare. We work closely with Support Not Separation in the UK. We also participate in the Movement for Family Power.

[1] See Dorothy Roberts, Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (2002).

[2] End the War on Black Women, Movement for Black Lives, (last visited Feb. 8, 2021).

[3] Women and Poverty in America, Legal Momentum,'s%20Poor%20are%20Women%20%26%20Children&text=Currently%2C%2035%20percent%20of%20single,raise%20their%20families%20in%20poverty (last visited Feb. 8, 2021).

[4] Quotation provided directly to authoring organizations (on file with authors).

[5] Quotation provided directly to authoring organizations (on file with authors).

[6] Quotation provided directly to authoring organizations (on file with authors).

[7] See Roberts, supra note 1.

[8] See id.

[9] TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. See What is TANF?, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,,to%20run%20the%20TANF%20program (last visited Feb. 4, 2021).

[10] See Global Women’s Strike et al., Open Letter to Governments—A Care Income Now!, #CareIncomeNow, (last visited Feb. 4, 2021).

[11] See Press Release, Gwen Moore, Congresswoman, House of Representatives, Congresswoman Gwen Moore Introduces Poverty Is Not Neglect Act (Jan. 28, 2021),

[12] See Press Release, Gwen Moore, Congresswoman, House of Representatives, Congresswoman Moore and Congresswoman Fudge Introduce Legislation to Fight Poverty and Honor Unpaid Work (Dec. 2, 2019), President Biden recently nominated Representative Fudge to be secretary of Housing and Urban Development. See Pam Fessler, Senate Panel to Hear From Biden’s HUD Nominee Rep. Marcia Fudge, NPR (Jan. 28, 2021, 5:07 AM),

[13] See EITC Modernization Act, H.R. 174, 117th Cong. § 3(a) (2021) (proposing to amend Section 32(c)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 by inserting “qualifying dependent” in place of “qualifying child”).

[14] See Global Women’s Strike et al., supra note 10.

[15] Poor People’s Campaign et al., Pool People’s Moral Justice Jubilee Policy Platform 8, 6 (2020),

[16] See Darla Mercado, Biden’s Stimulus Proposal Would Boost These Tax Credits for Families, CNBC (Jan. 14, 2021, 5:00 PM),

[17] See Marshall Plan for Moms, (last visited Feb. 4, 2021).