Liberate the Black Family from the Family Policing System: A Reparations Perspective on Ending Anti-Black Racism in “Child Welfare” Angela Olivia Burton and Joyce McMillan “Black parents know the pain of legally sanctioned and socially accepted separation for their children in a profound way. For centuries, their bodies were viewed as profit machines, units of labor and reproduction, their parental rights stripped to sustain America’s institution of chattel slavery. Black parents love their children.” 1
Introduction: Who We Are Joyce McMillan and Angela Olivia Burton are dynamic team players with lived experience and a wealth of knowledge about the family policing/family regulation system. Committed to dismantling structures and ending oppressive practices that disrupt and destroy families generationally under the banner of “child welfare” and “child protection,” we welcome this opportunity to sketch out some ideas about “why investing in community- based supports and divesting from harm- causing approaches” is “an important step toward repairing harm done by current structures, funding, and practices” and as a way “to begin preventing further harm to historically disadvantaged populations.” Joyce met Angela at the very beginning of her advocacy career when she invited Angela to do a presentation for impacted parents on practice standards for attorneys in New York child protection cases which Angela had developed with a slew of other vested professional advocates. 2 Since then; the two have worked closely together, learning from each other and building upon each other’s independent strengths to educate advocates and those who aspire to advocate for family autonomy and community agency. Angela, a former law professor and graduate of Cornell University and the New York University School of Law, and Joyce, founder of the Parent Legislative Action Network (PLAN) and Executive Director at JMacforFamilies 3 are always hard at work analyzing systems and strategizing ways to
liberate Black families from the menace of “child protective services” (CPS). The pursuit of freedom and justice for all is the fuel that keeps both Angela and Joyce moving forward; their shared understanding and ideology keep them moving forward together. We hope our reflections contribute to the steadily increasing vibrational energy toward justice for families that will be built on an ethic of self-determination, autonomy, care, connectedness, and love. The Black Family in Modern Slavery: Why A Reparations Perspective? Reparations are a helpful frame for advocates and policymakers to use in redressing the accumulated harms and disadvantages inflicted on Black people in the United States by the ______________ 1 Tricia Stephens, Black Parents Love Their Children Too: Addressing Anti-Black Racism in the American Child Welfare System , Social Work 191-195, (March 14, 2022), https://www.researchgate.net/publication/358375729_ Black_Parents_Love_Their_Children_Too_Addressing_ Anti-Black_Racism_in_the_American_Child_Welfare_ System 2 See New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services, “Parent Representation Standards,” https:// www.ils.ny.gov/node/94/parent-representation- standards#:~:text=Standards%20for%20Parental%20 Representation%20in%20State%20Intervention%20 Matters,Olivia%20Burton%2C%20first%20met%20on%20 June%2027%2C%202013. 3 JmacForFamilies and PLAN Coalition, https:// jmacforfamilies.org/plan .
36 | FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022
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