New Movement Seeks to upEND the Child Welfare System and Create Anti-Racist Supports for Children and Families

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Washington, DC and Houston, TX (June 19, 2020)—As a nation we separate children from their families on a routine basis; racism has shaped policies, including our immigration and child welfare policies, that separate children from their parents and it has been institutionalized in the systems that carry out these policies. The child welfare system has a long history of structural racism which has led to devastating consequences for children and families of color. Black, Brown, and Native children have disproportionately high rates of family separation and involvement with child welfare systems, and poorer outcomes when involved in these systems. Despite decades of efforts aimed at reform, these inequities remain. At CSSP and the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, through our extensive work to support child welfare reform, we have learned that racism is so deeply rooted in child welfare systems’ history, policies, and practices that they cannot simply be modified or revised. Rather, they must be recreated with the specific goal of producing and vigilantly maintaining racial equity.

Today we announce a collaborative movement aimed at protecting Black, Brown, and Native children and reimagining how we serve and support families. The upEND movement works to create a society in which the forcible separation of children from their parents is no longer an acceptable intervention for families in need. Instead, the upEND movement seeks to end the current child welfare system as we know it and to reimagine new, anti-racist means of keeping children safe and protected in their homes. The upEND movement supports anti-racist policies and practices and joins with organizers working on adequate, safe, and affordable housing; a guaranteed minimum income; affordable and accessible health care; and other anti-racist interventions that create meaningful supports for families.

“Now is the time to reimagine child welfare research, policy, and practice and commit to ending the oppression of Black, Brown, and Native children and families through our public systems,” said Kristen Weber, Director of Equity, Inclusion, and Justice at the Center for the Study of Social Policy. “We want to be sure that we are creating and loudly elevating innovative, accessible, and nimble anti-racist approaches that address the basic needs of families and will support children and their families together.” 

“An anti-racist framework calls for an end to the policies and practices that produce and maintain racial inequities within systems. In the child welfare system, these policies and practices are those that support the involuntary and forcible separation of children from their parents,” said Alan J. Dettlaff, Dean of the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston. “The trauma and harm that result from this intervention will only end through abolition of the child welfare system as we know it and a fundamental reimagining of the meaning of child welfare. Now is the time to expand our moral imaginations and envision a future where children and families are supported and strengthened, rather than surveilled and separated.”

We pause on this day, a day synonymous with liberation, and invite others to join us in this anti-racist movement and to reimagine what a different system of care for children could and should look like. We join the many trailblazers already hard at work on this issue and hope to support them and the years of work they have already done, using our privilege as national organizations to add to and further amplify the crucial work of dismantling White supremacy at a systems level.

Save the date for a virtual upEND convening on September 22nd and 23rd 2020 as well as a series of writings and interviews to be posted in the coming months; more information to follow. To learn more, follow us on Twitter @upENDmovement #upEND and #upENDmovement and visit

About CSSP. The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) works to achieve a racially, economically, and socially just society in which all children, youth, and families thrive. We translate ideas into action, promote public policies grounded in equity, and support strong and inclusive communities. We advocate with and for all children, youth, and families marginalized by public policies and institutional practices. Learn more at

About the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. The University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) is a nationally recognized program, ranked #22 by U.S. News & World Report. Offering MSW and PhD degrees, the GCSW prepares diverse leaders in practice and research to address complex challenges through exceptional education, innovative research, and meaningful community engagement. Our vision to achieve social, racial, economic, and political justice shapes every aspect of the College, from what students learn in the classroom, to the research we engage in, to the events and partnerships we curate that amplify community conversations and engagement on social justice issues. Learn more at