dear black people, don’t get it twisted: child welfare is a business

April 25, 2018
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By Suzanne Forbes-Vierling, PhD, AFROPUNK Contributor

Child welfare and all related organizations – seen and unseen, rely on poor children coming into the system to draw down federal funds and to maintain tax benefits as private organizations. Everyone gets paid once the system is in possession of the child. 

Recently we’ve all experienced the trauma of witnessing the murder of an entire family of black children.  Devonte Hart, his bio and adoptive siblings were murdered by their adoptive mothers – horrendous women who had absolutely no business being approved to adopt.  The adoptive mothers both had child abuse allegations and one parent was convicted of child abuse. They were viewed as saviors – cute, innocent hippie moms who forced the children to dress like 60s flower children and walk up to people begging and scratching for hugs. Why? Because hey -they were adopting black children. Those kids were lucky! Right? And should have been grateful.

As we look at the photos of Devonte’s tears streaming down his face while forced to hug a police officer, we know that he was probably simultaneously petrified and begging for help. We know now that he had to beg for food from neighbors. We know now that these women were given a pass due to the deadly combination of white fragility, white savior complex and the weaponization of white femininity – all three the bedrock of dominance of that which is the child welfare system.

The horrifying ending of these children’s lives exposes practices in the child welfare system, defined as a powerfully racist and classist federally funded system designed to care for abused and neglected children. It is a system dominated and essentially ruled by white female and male colonizers who believe that their decisions around child safety, adoption, and parenting are superior.  They oversee a system that is swollen with children of color and inherently broken.  Black families and black children are grossly overrepresented in all systems of care across the United States. This is a child trafficking system that categorically ignores the needs of Black women and take advantage of a never-ending climate of derision towards the black womb.

Child welfare’s approach is dichotomous.  Either the child is removed and mom never sees them again or the child remains in the home with no quality services put in place – both which can have deadly consequences.  There is no in between.  The services for black women are nonexistent and if there are any – they are grossly inferior. The net result is – black children continue to flow into the system and remain for indefinite periods of time. A perfect storm of events put Black women in the target of this profitable business.  

First, the obvious – chattel slavery. The brutal repeated rapes of black women to force children to fruition for profit. Second, during the civil rights movement, President Johnson funded the war on poverty – allocating funding that allowed states to care for the poor among other identified populations. Starting in the 70’s, counties got funded and outsourced foster care to nonprofits to manage.  Foster care became a cottage industry and entrepreneurs got funded to recruit and manage foster homes. It was in the best interest of the counties and private agencies to work together in keeping these beds filled with children so as to draw down federal funds. With relish, thousands of black children in each county were taken from their homes and each agency had hundreds of children. Private agencies nicknamed foster care “our bread and butter!” 

Thirdly, Patrick Moynihan, assistant secretary of labor to President Johnson’s war on poverty published The Negro Family: The Case For National Action.  His report was interpreted as both a condemnation of the black family and vilified as a blame the victim report – ignoring the racist, economic exclusionary environment in which black people lived. The report functioned as dog whistle politics that signaled to the states that it was open season on black children as the product of choice that gave each state justification for the child welfare “crisis” in their federal grant applications. You have to have research to back up your grant funding request, right? You have to create a crisis to get that money, right?  

Fourth, Dr. Elizabeth Bartholet, an influential Harvard white feminist powerfully advocated for the separation of black children from their mothers and into moneyed white families.  She felt that the concept of women having the freedom to be separated and safe from their abusive husbands should be equally applied to children being swiftly separated and safe from their abusive mothers and moved into a higher income white family to live a better life.  She believed that black people simply abused their children more and that race and race/culture placement matching was irrelevant. Furthermore, any attempts to do so was a barrier to the rescue of poor black children. Needless to say, her voice – along with others – influenced child welfare placement practices.  

These policies and reports vilified Black women and created a free-for-all climate green lighting the swarming of black women’s homes to collect black children and draw down those funds. Sistahs have no voice and zero advocacy. They are at the mercy of the courts and social workers – identical to being at the whim of the slave owner selling her child away to neighboring plantations.  

The swarming of the black woman’s womb is so normalized that social workers even have a cute catch phrase for the easy flow of black women’s children to the system: “You hatch em! we snatch em! 

In all of this, no one listens to African American professionals with programmatic ideas around community supports for Black women created by Black people.  There is no systemic incentive to do this because this would blow pensions on multiple levels.  

Yes – there are children that truly suffer.  They are abused and deserve respite and a quality, safe upbringing.  However, there are many ways that black children can be cared for in their community.  With the amount of money dispatched for black children to place them in out of home placements, a fraction of those dollars can robustly support the bio mother, relatives or culturally congruent families in the community. In addition, black people from the community and professionals have excellent ideas.  

This is how the money flows using the black woman’s pain. Each year Child welfare data on black children (sans black mothers) are sent out to federal and state governments and to private foundations to get more funding for salaries. They report how absolutely horrible conditions are in the black community. They then get funded for the fiscal year which runs from September to June. Winters are long and everyone settles in comfortably simply picking over black people, collecting their checks and clinical hours. No black family is released from public supervision because this cuts into profits/salaries etc. Below is what a report seeking additional funding looks like. Not a dime trickles to the community for housing and culturally congruent, black-woman-loving care. 

Included in the profit taking are many auxiliary organizations that you never see or hear about but who are funded in the BILLIONS to research and simply talk about poverty and child welfare. These organization first and foremost are tax-exempt organizations and are usually spin-offs of billion dollar publicly traded companies. They are designed to save on taxes basically.  Many a family foundation park their children’s trust funds in these tax shelters. We also see chunks of funding in advocacy groups, public foundations, private family foundations, think tanks, research organizations, watch dog groups, universities and more.

Black children and black mothers are not the priority of all these organizations.  Tax savings are. Billions of dollars are parked and invested in the stock market – and never a Black mother is supported or cared for in a way that is effective for her. 

I want to be clear.  Child welfare and all related organizations –  seen and unseen, rely on poor children coming into the system to draw down federal funds and to maintain tax benefits as private organizations. Everyone gets paid once the system is in possession of the child. 

No matter how you look at the data, our children swell this $29 billion system. Black children are 15% of all American children, making up 30-75% of child welfare.

Black women make up 7% of the US population and their children make up 30% to 75% of child welfare. Black people make up 14% of the US population and their children make up 30% to 75% of child welfare. In 2015, about 67% of Milwaukee County’s 2,250 children in out-of-home placements were black — even though the county’s population is only 27% black.  Dane County’s Wisconsin foster care system is approximately 75% African American. Black people make up 25% of New York City and 60% of all the kids in foster care. Black people make up 9% of the Los Angeles population, but are 28% of foster care.  Let this sit $8.7 billion dollars (30% of $29 billion) is comfortable allocated for the removal and housing of the black woman’s child.

That means everyone involved in a black child’s life once removed from a black mother gets a paycheck.  For every $100.00 in the paycheck, $30.00 is because a black child is there.  For every 50k salary – 15K to 30K to 50K and the medical benefits is because of the suffering of a black woman and her child.  For every system employee getting a lifetime pension, 30% of that check or more is due to the suffering of a black woman and her child.  

Each black child is counted and discussed as a daily bed rate, daily census or daily seat rate. Tell me, where is the incentive to stop this flow of black bodies out of the community? 

Make no mistake and without a doubt, child welfare needs black families in pain so folk can get paid. It is in their best interest to NOT zero out the number of children in receiving homes (orphanages), group homes, foster homes, and hospitals.  It is NOT in their best interest for social service programs to zero out their cases.  It is not in their best interest to fully fund culturally congruent services with loving support and compassion around the black mother and community. It is profitable to keep doing “in other news, the sky is blue” research. It is profitable to take black children out of their homes regardless of the pleas from the black community.

The colonizer-created child welfare system, in its current form where black women are reviled, ignored and whose services and care are woefully inferior, is a state sanctioned human trafficking ring. A profit center for folk to extract pensions.

We are all we have. We got enough athletes, musicians, film stars, non-famous millionaires and hardworking folk willing to put in to pool funds to get these kids back and to create our own family preservation system. We have the expertise.  No one else is incentivized to save our children.



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