Excerpted From: Kendra Kumor, Systemic Racism in Child Neglect Laws, 89 Fordham Law Review Online 113 (2021) (102 Footnotes) (Full Document)


KendraKumorBlack children constitute 14 percent of the total child population in the United States today. However, Black children represent 23 percent of the total population in the child welfare system. Of the 37.4 percent of U.S. children who are the subject of a child protective services investigation before their eighteenth birthdays, 53 percent of those children are Black. The disproportionate representation of Black children in the child protection system can be traced back to the Reconstruction era, when apprenticeship statutes afforded local law enforcement officers and judges broad discretion to take Black children away from their families. Today, many state child neglect statutes still allow social workers and judges much discretion to decide what constitutes child neglect. This Comment argues that many states' child neglect statutes remain too broad, contributing to the high disproportionality rates of Black children in the child welfare system. State legislatures should adopt a uniform, narrow definition of child neglect to help reduce racial bias in child neglect determinations and account for the community neglect that many Black families face today.

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Although the Black Codes and apprenticeship statutes on which the American child protection system was founded have long been repealed, residual systemic racial bias remains. Today, Black children are still disproportionately represented in child protective services investigations, in part because Black families disproportionately represent the homeless and impoverished population of the United States. State legislatures can help to reduce disproportionality rates by enacting narrow definitions of child neglect. Especially important are statutory exceptions for financial inability to provide for a child. The child protection system should also consider community neglect to account for the structural and environmental causes of child neglect. Through these measures, the American child protection system can begin to rid itself of the racial bias that still pervades it today.

J.D. Candidate, 2021, Fordham University School of Law; B.A., 2016, Boston College.