In communities around the world, parent leaders fight the injustices of child welfare systems and the disproportionate impact that these systems have on families from racial and ethnic groups with long histories of oppression and low-income families of all backgrounds. As child welfare is increasingly understood as a justice issue on par with mass incarceration, parents, families and allies are mobilizing communities to demand justice and change.
In this section, you’ll find material about organizers and activists working to bring parents together to build a movement, connect their experiences to intersecting social justice issues, and pressure governments to create new ways of supporting families and communities that aren’t based on a crime and punishment model.
Through public protests and the press, these community organizers raise awareness of aspects of the system that are often kept hidden, working to change the public’s understanding of the child welfare system and of child welfare-affected parents.
Protests, Meetings, and Rallies Led by Aboriginal Grandmothers, Australia
Grandmothers Against Removal NSW
In Australia today, Aboriginal children are roughly ten times more likely to be in out-of-home placement than non-Aboriginal children, while over the past decade the number of Aboriginal children in care in Australia nearly doubled, from just over 9,000 children ten years ago to almost 18,000 in 2017.
In 2014, Aboriginal grandmothers in New South Wales, Australia, who were determined not to let their grandchildren become the next “Stolen Generation,” began to organize.
Aboriginal grandmothers Deb Swan, Suellyn Tighe and Jenny Swan connected with other grandmothers who’d seen their grandchildren placed in care despite a lack of specific evidence that they were in imminent danger. They’d been turned down as resource parents for their grandchildren, sometimes with no more concrete reason than that they were deemed “unsuitable.” Together they formed an organization called Grandmothers Against Removal NSW.
They took to the streets in protest, even when parents with children in care feared that joining them might lead to repercussions from local child welfare authorities. They held meetings and rallies to educate Indigenous families about their rights and about the increasing numbers of Aboriginal children being placed. They pushed the New South Wales Department of Communities and Justice for greater community involvement to reduce the number of Aboriginal children removed from their families. As a result, its minister made a commitment to GMAR NSW to reduce the number of children in care.
Together with local authorities, GMAR NSW developed Guiding Principles for Strengthening the Participation of Local Aboriginal Community in Child Protection Decision-making.
You can read more about their organizing in this article from National Indigenous Television (NITV), watch them head to national parliament on NITV and hear an interview by one of GMAR NSW’s founders on ABC New Australia. Learn more about the documentary made about their work.
Black Children Matter: Political Protests Pressure Systems to Change, The United States
Activism in Minnesota
The racial disproportionality of Minnesota’s child welfare system has led to sustained efforts from parent organizers and their allies to raise public awareness, to pressure child welfare officials to implement changes on the frontline, and to work with legislators to pass the African American Family Preservation Act.
Read interviews with ally and activist Kelis Houston:
- Changing the Narrative, Changing the Status Quo
- Push Continues for Minnesota’s African American Family Preservation Act
Watch testimony from Houston and grandparent activist Tonia Rolbiecke in support of the African American Family Preservation bill and Why We Need the African American Family Preservation Act featuring parents organizing for change.
Building Community and Making Connections, The United States
Movemement for Family Power
Movement for Family Power is working to connect activist efforts in child welfare to the movement to end mass incarceration in The United States and The Black Lives Matter movement.
Learn more about their work and strategies:
- Toward the Abolition of the Foster System by Erin Miles Cloud, co-founder and co-director of Movement for Family Power
- How the Foster System Has Become Ground Zero for the U.S. Drug War (Report, Webinar, Social Media Toolkit)
- Black Families Matter: Ending Family Regulation Systems with Dorothy Roberts and Lisa Sangoi — We Be Imagining Podcast Hosted by J. Khadijah Abdurahman and Stanley Muñoz
Movement for Family Power believes that communities are best positioned to attack massive injustices, and that supporting the leadership of those most impacted will help usher us into ethical and sustainable policy shifts and radical transformation. MFP works to build loving and trusting community with partners and communities who want to reduce the reach of the foster system. This work currently includes:
- Being in community and being accountable to aligned organizations, movements and activists
- Grant writing support for leaders in the work
- Research support for impacted people/grassroots organizations
- Providing technical assistance and political education to support capacity of grassroots organizations
- Hosting convenings of people working to break isolation, foster community, and build value alignment
- Reconceptualizing traditional “non-profit” work structure (decentralizing work, sharing resources, etc.)
- Learning history and movement theory from movement practitioners such as AYNI institute, to support strategic growth in our community.