Episode #5: The Tyranny of the Child Welfare System, Part 2


PART 2 OF 2!

Threatening to separate families that don’t conform to colonizer norms is as old as the United States itself. This threat and the actual removal of children from their families has been institutionalized in what is now known as the modern child welfare system.

Most social workers are familiar with some iteration of the child welfare system. In fact, popular opinion would probably have you (misguidedly) believe that social work IS child welfare. But really, what is this system that we call child welfare? Can the welfare of any and every child truly be determined by an entity founded on the norms of white middle-class heterosexual parenthood?

In this episode, we speak with our (first!) guest, CT, about their 20-year experience working in child welfare. They share some gripping accounts of how this system causes more harm than it prevents as well as how it disproportionately targets families of color – especially Black families – than white families. And not only is this a terrible system for families to get caught in, but it’s demoralizing, dangerous, and unsupportive for the social workers employed by this system as well.

Full Transcript:

CT:                        So, when I first started working, we did not see a lot of Latino Hispanic families. I think just the demographic of the city, at the time, didn’t really reflect that. I remember the first time we had a case, where there was a Hispanic dad and the mom was white. And, I mean, you would’ve thought, “Oh, my gosh. Oh, my. What do we do? Where do we put this kid?” And I’m just like, “Look, what’s the situation? Can we figure that part out first?”

Now, what I do remember is that the dad actually got custody of the kid. And, so, for men who find themselves, or anyone who identifies as male, can find themselves in this system, wins for men in child welfare are few and far between. Even if you are, hands down, the safest parent. Or the other parent has got so many other issues that are interrupting their inability to safely parent. And I say that language very specifically. I didn’t say because they’re a bad parent. If they have a host of other things that they’re experiencing: trauma, violence, substance abuse, untreated mental health issue, poverty. None of which people choose. And, so, I was so shocked when he got custody. I was like, “Is this the way this works? Is this what this looks like when it sort of works?” Like, you would have thought he was a unicorn.

Ondine:               That just fits in again to this colonizer framework. [crosstalk 00:01:42] certain rules for men and certain rules for women. And that white women are the pinnacle of a good mother.

Drew:                   I was also thinking, too, the way you were saying that these cases rarely favor men and how that is still even blaming women in that regard, for not being the parent that they’re supposed to be. Because obviously we can’t expect this guy to take over the responsibilities of this. I was also just think, too, God forbid if you’re not in a hetero couple and that you’re just two men. What [inaudible 00:02:11]

Ondine:               What happens to queer people that get caught up in this system?

CT:                        Early in my career, I had this one client who was a lesbian. And I realized that because she actually told me. And the way she told me, there was so much fear. She came to my office to tell me that. And I just remember going, “Okay.” [crosstalk 00:02:40] “It seemed like you were coming here to tell me something bad.” I haven’t heard anything bad. I distinctly remember, her face changed. And she was so shocked. She was like, “But, I’m gay.” And I was like, “Okay.”

Ondine:               However, I’m sure not everybody in your position would have reacted like that.

CT:                        And her situation, she had a feisty teenager. Well, [inaudible 00:03:05] somebody probably could have [inaudible 00:03:06] when I was a teenager, too.

Ondine:               Yeah, me too.

CT:                        Who wasn’t? You lose your mind when you’re a teenager. No one should expect teenagers to be [inaudible 00:03:15]. That’s not how that goes. But, she was so terrified that somehow I would write that in her case work, or I would write that in her record. And I was like, “No, I’m not putting that. That doesn’t need to be put anywhere because that’s not a problem. Is it a problem for you? It’s not a problem for me.”

Ondine:               Somebody else might have coded that as what? It wasn’t necessarily exposing…

CT:                        Exposing. Oh, I could see exposure to deviant sexual behavior. Or sexual exploitation. But, I would be so happy when I would see, there were a couple times where I did family team meetings and I was finalizing an adoption and it was a same sex adoption. And I was like, “So happy for you all.” Because they were happy, these kids were just thriving. And I’m like, “Listen, I don’t care who you live with.” As long as they can provide the basic needs, you’re not being really abused. You’re not being sexually assaulted, somebody’s not beating the shit out of you every night. They’re not starving you on purpose. They’re not locking you outside of the house as punishment. Like, for me, that’s what abuse really, really is. Somebody being poor, somebody having a substance abuse issue, to me, is not even abuse. Because, listen, we all know that there are substance abusing rich white folks.

Ondine:               Oh, my goodness.

CT:                        We have a host of kids. And ain’t nobody coming to get their kids. Nobody’s coming to get their kids.

Ondine:               Also, just because you smoke weed or drink alcohol, doesn’t mean that you’re doing it when your kids are around, while you’re supposed to be watching your kids.

CT:                        A lot of workers really thought that kids are just living in drug dens. Like, they’re just people laying all over the floors and just random people coming in and out.

Ondine:               Not that, like, kids have already been fed and bathed and are in bed and their parents are smoking a joint, relaxing.

CT:                        I remember a case that I did a family team meeting on and Mom tested positive for weed. Kid was at grandma’s house throughout the whole weekend. And I’m just doing this thing like, “Why are we even here? Why the shit are we even here?” And they just kept going on and on and on and on and on, as if she’s smoking a crack pipe, holding a baby in one hand and smoking a crack pipe in the other hand.

Drew:                   Blowing smoke in her face.

CT:                        Yes. The kid wasn’t even there. And then the relative was like, “She needs to go home. Can she go home?”

CT:                        And, so, there’s also the aspect of relative placements. Because, yes, in most cases, if you’re going to have to remove a kid, at least put them with somebody that they know.

Ondine:               Right. That makes sense.

CT:                        And I saw so many cases where kids would get removed from relatives because relatives allowed access to the kid for the parent. Like, somebody went to the store and left biological mom and the kid in the house at the same time. And then it becomes a failure to protect by the relative. And then the system’s like, “We can’t trust you to protect these kids because you left this child, unsupervised, with the parent that they’re not supposed to be under supervised.”

Ondine:               So, now, this child has to go to be with strangers, who God knows who may they be. And there are some wonderful foster parents.

CT:                        But, there are some trashy ass foster parents. At one point in my life, I reviewed all of the reports that came in on foster parents across the state. And I was just like, “How are these people foster parents?” Like, the home that you’re moving from was nowhere near as bad as this home. I mean, I have seen some kids. I have seen some shit happen in some foster homes and I’m just like, “You, ma’am, should be arrested. You should be arrested.” I mean, I know kids who have been assaulted, in multiple ways, in foster homes and they don’t close those homes.

Drew:                   It really makes me wonder because I know that the foster system that we [inaudible 00:07:32] is supposed to have a lot of stages and [inaudible 00:07:33] protections and stuff. It’s like, who is this protecting in that, if you can still get through all those checks and balances, and then you’re still providing less care than the home you removed them from?

CT:                        This system doesn’t make any sense.

Ondine:               It doesn’t sound like it. We were talking a little bit about moving kids, putting them into different placements, and who gets removed. I was reflecting back again on all of these various [inaudible 00:08:02] indigenous folks. They have children taken away from them. And, back to this [inaudible 00:08:07] article [inaudible 00:08:09]. This is about South Dakota in particular, but in South Dakota, a native child is 11 times more likely to be placed in foster care than a white child. Natives compromise less than 9% of the state’s population, but 52% of the kids in South Dakota foster care are indigenous.

CT:                        That’s criminal.

Ondine:               Isn’t it, though?

CT:                        That is 1000% criminal.

Ondine:               Right? And there are [inaudible 00:08:35] laws on the books that native kids are going to be placed into foster care families that are of native people.

CT:                        And then Child Welfare is supposed to do that.

Ondine:               But, apparently, that’s not the case.

Drew:                   Laws are only meaningful if they’re followed and enforced.

CT:                        Well, and here’s the other catch. Who gets to be a foster parent and what is your record have to look like? So, you could have a misdemeanor drug possession charge from 20 years ago and be a foster parent.

Ondine:               And when we know who gets charged.

CT:                        There you go.

Ondine:               I don’t know if we have to spell that out for the listener.

CT:                        Oh, Lord, I hope not. [crosstalk 00:09:16] It’s not white folks.

Ondine:               It’s not white folks.

CT:                        There you go.

Ondine:               It’s not white people.

CT:                        Yeah. And so that also contributes, probably, to these higher rates and why these kids are not going into homes that will honor and celebrate and nurture their culture. Because it is a same culture home.

Drew:                   This is a pretty clear example of institutionalized repression and institutionalized racism. Where it’s like, “We can write this neutral-sounding law that says, ‘Yeah, we’ll try to relocate these kids into families that have their same culture and background or whatever,'” except we know these are also families that we have targeted with over-policing and you know they’re more likely to maybe have had a substance abuse charge or something like that. So, while we say with intents that we’re going to try to reunite them with families from their own culture, own region, impact is really low. We’re actually not trying to fix that impact, either. Because, again, this is a mechanism we use to blame those cultures for failing.

Ondine:               That’s right. And to what extent is family reunification and family preservation an actual goal of child welfare?

CT:                        Well, it’s a goal on paper.

Ondine:               I read that. But, I’m asking you.

CT:                        And what’s funny is, it is literally the goal until a judge says it’s not.

Ondine:               In your experience, how true is that? How committed are social workers in particular to that?

CT:                        Well, I will say that it also depends on the age of the kid. So, the younger a kid. I’ve seen situations where someone has a baby, baby comes into care for whatever reason, and we workers to try to figure out where to place this child. If it’s not going to be with a relative or whatever, it’s going to foster care. Is this an adoptive home? They’ll ask that. And they’ll think they’ll place babies in adoptive homes that are foster [inaudible 00:11:22].

Ondine:               So, they’re already tracking this kid to probably not go back home to their birth parents.

CT:                        And in some cases, there are situations if a child is born addicted to meth, the likelihood that that baby is going to go back home is very small. Now, I have seen it happen. It doesn’t happen that frequently. But, the other catch is is that there are federal laws that play, that only give you a small amount of time.

CT:                        Let’s say you do have a substance abuse issue. You only have a small amount of time to be able to get treatment. Well, first of all, you have to get in treatment. You got to complete treatment. You got to maintain sobriety. You’ve got to prove that you can hold down a job and that you can have secure housing, independent housing. So, you couldn’t move back in with your mom, who is a great support system.

Drew:                   Has all kinds of wealth to support you. Doesn’t matter.

CT:                        Can’t move in with her, even if her record is squeaky clean. Can’t move in with her. You have to have your own housing. So, if we’re really honest about how long it takes someone to address a pretty substance abuse issue, you’re looking at anywhere between 24 to 36 months. You got 24 months, from the time that the child is removed from your custody to get that child back. And 24 months go by quick.

Ondine:               Absolutely.

CT:                        I think it’s 24. Maybe it’s 12. I think it’s 24, though.

CT:                        And, so, I’m addicted to meth, I’m addicted to pills. How easy is it to get into treatment? There’s a waist list for treatment. And, so, what do you think I’m going to be doing while I’m waiting for treatment? Well, make sure you go to all these [inaudible 00:13:17]. I ain’t going to no damn [inaudible 00:13:19]. I need to go to treatment. That’s not treatment.

CT:                        And, so, it is the worst system that can show up on a family’s doorstep. It just is the absolute worst. It doesn’t have to be, though.

Ondine:               So, this is a good segue because I think we’ve probably made a pretty good case. The child welfare system in the United State is flawed. Not that folks didn’t know that. Beyond just flawed, it is predicated on holding up a system of white supremacy and it was designed by colonizers.

CT:                        Absolutely.

Drew:                   By design, it was also intended to separate communities, separate people from their communities who didn’t fit the norms of white supremacy.

CT:                        Right.

Ondine:               Right. So, there’s a part of me that’s just like, should we just burn it down? What does a social worker do?

CT:                        I’ve always been of the opinion and will always be of the opinion that the vast majority of cases that are open didn’t have to opened in the first place. Because people have seen signs of things the entire time, before it gets to the [inaudible 00:14:32]. So, if we spent more money on prevention and job trainings and making sure people actually get a living wage and that there’s affordable housing. And that, if someone is struggling with substance abuse issue, access to treatment is super easy.

Drew:                   That’s right.

CT:                        Or that we don’t penalize people for getting jobs and they make 25 cents too much and so now they don’t qualify [crosstalk 00:14:59]

Drew:                   They can’t get food stamps.

CT:                        They can’t get food stamps, they can’t get childcare. If we start doing that, then only the people, only the families that literally are likely to kill their kids from something, those are the only people in the system. Those would be the only ones. And maybe, in some cases, maybe you might be able to do something with those families. But, child welfare is a business.

Drew:                   So, this is where capitalism steps in [crosstalk 00:15:27]

CT:                        Child welfare is a business because private childcare facilities depend on the system to constantly keep those beds full. And so, there’s money to be made in child welfare. People don’t want to talk about that but private childcare facilities are not non-profits. Those are businesses. So, we need take the highest level kid. So, we get a bunch of level five kids, the cabinet is paying the most money for those kids. And so we have a vested interest in upholding this system because it’s how I pay my bills.

Drew:                   So, what I’m hearing is, for social workers in particular, really working for raising a living wage, working towards getting affordable housing–

CT:                        That’s social work. That’s social work.

Drew:                   That’s the stuff. So, when you’re sitting in your social work class like, “I want to help people, I love kids.”

CT:                        Please get out. Please get out. [crosstalk 00:16:26]

Ondine:               This is part of the social work where I didn’t get a lot of education and I don’t think any of us did. About community organizing and responding and really building solutions within communities that center families and provide that model of transformative justice, not punitive justice. And I mentioned this to you all before, but I’ve been reading this book called Revolution Starts at Home and it’s a lot of examples of community-based responses to people who are survivors of domestic violence, basically coming up with a model that addresses this and attempts to resolve it without involving the state or the police. And I feel like there’s an opportunity for social workers to really get galvanized and begin something similar to that. Like you said earlier, it would become more preventative and not so reactive to that. Nobody even has to get called to CPS in the first place.

CT:                        Right, right. Right. I don’t want anybody to have to get called into that kind of system because I know, once you in it, you might not survive it. Your kid might not survive. I mean, it is the worst thing. But, there’s so much other stuff that could be done before it gets to that point.

Ondine:               The way you were talking about the kids in the bed, right? So many options.

CT:                        Why [inaudible 00:17:45]?

Drew:                   That’s right, that was [crosstalk 00:17:48]

Drew:                   So, what advice or what would you tell social workers who are currently working within child welfare?

CT:                        My [inaudible 00:18:00] tells them to get out.

Drew:                   I thought that might be what you would say. But, if they get out, also, who is left?

CT:                        Well, I mean, it’s a pipeline. But, every worker that drops out, there’s five that will come right in. What I would tell workers that are in this right now is never forget that these are actual human beings who have not chosen, nobody has chosen, the path that has gotten them into this spot. And it is because systems have failed. And, so, I remember when I was, at one point in my career, doing parenting classes. My goal was to teach people, this is what they’re looking for. This is what they’re looking for. And we always worked about protected capacity. And if people really looked more at strengthening a person’s protected capacity, you’re really talking about support systems, access to resources, coping mechanisms. All of those kind of basic sort of things. If we did more work around that, in a more preventive way, and workers can do that. There’s a way for workers to do that.

CT:                        And let me say this very clearly. I’ve had the honor of working with some phenomenal workers and some phenomenal supervisors who were really family-centered first, as opposed to process and policy centered. And I have the utmost respect for those folks because, to me, they were doing the work the way that it needed to be done, not the way the work was written in a policy manual.

Drew:                   They weren’t worshiping the written word.

CT:                        They were not. They were not. And there were lots of situations where I’m like, “So, you’re not going to remove?” And they’re like, “No. We’re going to put family preservation in, we’re going to put [inaudible 00:19:56] services in, we’re going to put X, Y, and Z services here. Because we want to keep this family together. Because nobody is going to win if we rip them apart.”

CT:                        And, so, nobody wins when you rip families apart.

Drew:                   I wonder how hard it was for those folks to work in that machine, to maintain that strong sense of justice for the families they were working with.

CT:                        I think the two folks that I’m thinking about, I worked with them probably for about five years, and then they left. And I was just like, “[inaudible 00:20:27].” I literally mourned the fact that they weren’t going to be there because I felt like they were the last line of defense for these families and they worked with integrity, they worked with humility, they worked transparently. They did not put things on people’s case plans, [inaudible 00:20:46], that is not what they did. And they were so supportive of families. Just the way that they dealt with them was so completely different. And I was like, “You all are doing this work the way that it’s supposed to be, people are supposed to do it.”

CT:                        But, I also understand, for workers, they’re overworked. They are struggling with secondary trauma that nobody really talks to them about.

Drew:                   I was wondering if that would come up.

CT:                        Listen, the most traumatic thing that I have ever been a part of is removals. And nobody can prepare for all the flood of emotions in a removal. You’ve got a parent who is freaking out, rightfully so. Keep in mind, everybody is assessing how you’re freaking out.

Drew:                   Of course.

Ondine:               And they use it against you later.

CT:                        And they use it against you later.

Drew:                   [crosstalk 00:21:39] feelings and emotions out.

CT:                        Well, like, Mom [inaudible 00:21:41]. Well, you just took the kid, what did you expect them to do? Shake your damn hand? You’re lucky she didn’t swing on you. You’re real lucky she didn’t swing on you because that maternal instinct. Everything I know, everything in some of these moms, and dads, too, and any kind of caregiver. You’re coming to get my kid. So, we got to fight. This is fight or flight for real. But, any sort of negative interaction during their removal and people like [inaudible 00:22:11].

Drew:                   Of course.

CT:                        They were just so aggressive during the removal. And I’m just like, “I know she didn’t mean [inaudible 00:22:17].” [inaudible 00:22:19] from you, let alone [crosstalk 00:22:22].

Drew:                   You earlier mentioned, during removals, like sort of a SWAT team [inaudible 00:22:29] involved.

CT:                        Worst one I have ever, ever, ever been a part of and literally just watching [inaudible 00:22:36] and I shudder to think how traumatized those kids were. And how traumatized those parents were. Because it was literally like a battering ram that they used to bust down the door. And then you just hear all this, “Police!” Like it is on television. Imagine being three years old, in the back of the room, and they literally bust down the door.

Ondine:               You’re not going to be okay after that.

CT:                        You can’t be.

Ondine:               There’s no way.

CT:                        You cannot be okay. And then, they just pick you up and hand you to two random-ass people that you’ve never met. And then what do you do? What do you do? And then you take them. So, somebody kicked down my parents’ door, my parents are freaking out, the police are here, everybody’s yelling. It’s violent. You hand me off to this strange person. And then they drive me off to somebody else’s strange house, where nothing smells the same, nothing feels the same. The food ain’t the same, the bed don’t feel the same. Like, everything is different. And you expect kids to be okay. And they’re never going to be okay. You can’t be okay from that. It isn’t possible.

Drew:                   And you’ve been out of this work for a long time and you still remember all of this stuff. I did talk about that secondary trauma.

Ondine:               [crosstalk 00:24:00] yesterday.

CT:                        I remember going to the [inaudible 00:24:05] station. I remember where we had to sit in the car, I remember they just literally handed these kids to us like it was a sack of groceries. And it was so dark because it happened at night. It was so dark. And, so, I’m thinking like, “Well, great, now these kids are terrified of nighttime.” And because that’s what they will remember when it hits dark, is somebody else going to come and get me?

CT:                        Yeah, I probably should [inaudible 00:24:32] about secondary trauma.

Drew:                   I don’t see how social worker and your role, I don’t see how that couldn’t follow you home and haunt you unless you’re dead inside.

CT:                        I mean, it led to insomnia. I remember the worst experience I had with insomnia, I didn’t sleep for three days. Three whole days. I would go to bed and I would just lay there. Just tossing and turning and you can’t sleep. I literally had to call in sick and I slept for 24 hours. And that didn’t feel like enough. I would buy a fifth of vodka on probably Mondays, I’d buy another one Wednesday because that would be gone. And then I’d buy another one on Friday. And I did that probably for a good six, seven months. And was just like, “This is insane. This is insane.” And I know there are high rates of anxiety, depression, mental health issues with workers. Substance abuse issues with workers. Because everybody’s trying to self medicate because you are doing the worst shit on a daily basis. Every single day, you are in a system that destroys people’s lives and you’re complicit in. And you know you’re complicit. And then you got to go home and sit with this.

Drew:                   Go see your own kids.

CT:                        Go see your own kids.

Ondine:               So, for young folks who are going into the social work profession, who are getting recruited to come work for child welfare, don’t do it.

CT:                        If you are going to do it, you really have to understand what it is that you’re getting in to. You have to have a plan for how you’re going to debrief all this trauma that you are going to carry. You cannot go into this work, thinking, “I’m doing it because I love kids and I just want to save people.” You are going to be the first one that are going to fuck someone all the way up and you won’t last. You won’t last six months if you go into it thinking that. But, when I taught a class, it was an Intro to Child Welfare class. On the first days, I would say, “My goal is to weed you all out. Because not all of y’all need to be in this work and not all of y’all will make it.” And, so I would be really, really honest about this is what it is like. I know this book is on this syllabus, but don’t read that book. Because that book is a lie, because that book makes it seem hopeful and it’s not. It can’t be. Child welfare cannot be hopeful. It’s not set up that way, it is just not set up that way.

CT:                        But, I mean, young folks do it. But, I think they target a very specific group of folks who are just so, “I got student loans to pay for, I need a job, and so I’m going to take this job. And, holy shit. Oh, my God, I’m doing this kind of stuff.” Now it just seems like the life being drained out of people doing this kind of work. It’s hard. It changes how you are. It really, really does. And I think, for me, it made me a much better fighter for other people and it made me less fearful about speaking truth to power. Because I felt like I had to do that. So, I pissed off half of this town. I pissed off [inaudible 00:28:00], I got kicked out of CPS [inaudible 00:28:01]. But, that’s okay. That’s okay. What all y’all going to hear is you ain’t shit, you ain’t shit, this is unfair. Y’all don’t like black people. You going to hear all of that. I helped to do that that way because I can’t continue to be so complicit in this. I cannot do this.

Ondine:               I would go so far as to say social workers have responsibility–

CT:                        We have an obligation. Child welfare [inaudible 00:28:28] Code of Ethics out there.

Drew:                   I was just thinking that, when you said that people are like, “Oh, I want to save children.” That’s hella paternalism right now. Like, who do you think you are? [crosstalk 00:28:37]

CT:                        Well, I’m the worker. I’m the state. I’m the government. And, so, yes, I get to come in and save these poor little black or brown kids, and occasionally some white ones, But mostly black and brown ones. Because I can do that.

Drew:                   From these benighted parents that don’t know any better.

CT:                        These trash, these awful, awful people who shouldn’t be having kids, anyway.

Ondine:               So, white colonizer regime keeps churning on.

Drew:                   You know, I thought about this, too. Because you were talking about the stuff that happened in 19th century with the removal of indigenous kids and how that was really an operation of the state, right? To kill the Indians, save the man, and it really reminds me of what is actually literally going on today at the border of the United States with Mexico. Where they are separating children from their families as a policy to deter people from trying to come into this country to seek asylum. And the person who’s at the head of this, the official at the Department of Health and Human Services, his name is Johnathon White.

Ondine:               Yeah, we always say their names. We always name them.

Drew:                   He is the head of this.

Ondine:               The remover in chief.

Drew:                   Yeah, the remover in chief. And when it came to answering some questions about the plan to unify these families that had been separated by the state, he actually says– this is only the second scariest part of this– he actually says that by removing the children from these, quote unquote, sponsor homes would be too traumatizing and destabilizing for them and shouldn’t do it.

Ondine:               So, basically, it’s too traumatizing to reunite these kids with their parents.

Drew:                   With their families, that they just came through. And here’s the first most scary thing about that. This guy, Johnathon White, is a social worker.

Ondine:               Johnathon White couldn’t make that up. He’s a social worker.

Drew:                   He’s a social worker. He actually cited his background as a social worker for his expertise in making this decision, to not try to reunify the children because it would be too traumatizing.

CT:                        Sir, you are absolutely 1000% incorrect in every possible way. In every possible way. I have never ever, ever seen a kid not be [inaudible 00:30:58]. And here’s the thing, kids who do experience [inaudible 00:31:04], always love their parents. That love that a kid has for their parent very rarely ever dies. They just want the shit to stop. But they all want to go home. They all want to go home. And, so, whoever this dude is, sir, shame on you for that. Because that is absolute trash.

Ondine:               I think we should take away his social worker credentials.

CT:                        Don’t [inaudible 00:31:33] yourself with something like that.

Drew:                   Shame on him for even evoking our profession and being involved in that. We are opposed to that. We should be. It is our very fundamental mission to be opposed to that.

CT:                        Well, you know, it’s a load of shit. And the whole thing with snatching kids from people who all they’re trying to do is find a better life. That’s what we’re doing now? I want not to be shot down in the street due to gang violence. But I want to be able to raise my kids in a place that it’s less likely that somebody, in the middle of the night, is just going to come and get them and they’re going to human trafficked all over the world. Come on. That’s what people voted for, that’s what y’all voted for. Some of y’all voted for. I didn’t vote for that shit.

Ondine:               All of those social workers who are listening right now, he’s one of us, right? So, all of you all who are like, “Oh, I can’t believe that. I would never do that,” or, “I don’t think that,” or “Social work isn’t that,” it is, though.

CT:                        It always has been.

Drew:                   One of your classmates, one of your co-workers is that dude.

CT:                        Absolutely. Absolutely. Shit, some of y’all that dude.

Ondine:               Yeah, we need to be calling that out every time we see it.

CT:                        Every single time. To think about what is going on with those kids and their families and the fact that this nation has lost thousands of people. How do you lose thousands of kids? How do you just lose them? And, so, we’re going to reunite kids and family, but we don’t know where [inaudible 00:33:19].

Ondine:               I remember the story recently about one of these kids getting turned over to a parent. It was the wrong kid, wrong parent.

CT:                        Were they brown? Like, you brown, they brown. Work it out. Figure it out.

CT:                        I feel like child welfare is a really unnecessary system. We don’t have to have it. We don’t.

Drew:                   We don’t have to have it, but this nation, which is founded on colonizing people and uplifting structures of white supremacy needs it to be survive.

CT:                        Absolutely.

Ondine:               That’s right. I think that’s important, too. [crosstalk 00:33:55] people to make money off it. There’s a a capitalist interest in this system existing. And then also, control and subjugate people, this system has to exist.

Ondine:               We looked a little bit about what are out there, examples of people doing it differently.

CT:                        I don’t know how you do this differently.

Ondine:               I don’t know. Short of just creating some community-based responses that happen outside of the state.

CT:                        But, I do think if you look at communities outside of the United States who have not been infected with Western culture, there’s some system that don’t have child welfare systems. They don’t have them. You know why? Because they deal with everything in the community. And, so, the process of a family team meeting was really based on family group conferencing, which is an indigenous process. There’s a problem, somebody has an issue, cool, we got a little time together to figure out how we do whatever we need to do for this family, for these kids, for whatever this situation is. We’re handling this as a community because it is a community issue. And what would it look like if we could get to that? If that was the system?

Ondine:               Yeah. I would also love to hear from anybody listening. If that is the way you’re doing your work, I want to know about it.

CT:                        Yeah.

Drew:                   I think looking out, as people are going to try to get people who we see as not doing parenting right, what has happened to us, that that’s the initial reaction? And not to like, “How can I help with this?” It reminds me of, in 2014, there’s a woman, Debra Harrell in North Carolina. She had to go work a shift at a job at McDonald’s and thought, “This is not a place for a kid to have to spend eight hours,” gave her child the cell phone, and went to go play at a public park and [inaudible 00:35:52]. It was fine. And after being there for two days, another parent saw this kid there by themselves. And the kid told the parent, “Oh, my mom’s at work.” That parent, who is probably white, the first reaction was to call CPS. CPS went and fucking arrested Debra Harrell. And it’s just like, what was wrong with that person? They were just like, “This is somebody who needs some help.” And where was the social worker that got charged that was like, “We need to actually get this person connected with some childcare services.”

CT:                        Easy fix.

Drew:                   And this is also another symptom of that capitalism where it’s like, McDonald’s ain’t paying for childcare services for their workers. Where is the complicity in that? They are actually participating in family violence.

Ondine:               That’s right. Say that again. McDonald’s is participating in family violence. We’re going to get in trouble.

Drew:                   It’s alright. They don’t give me money.

CT:                        I guess McDonald’s not going to be a sponsor.

Drew:                   Those two for twos are going to be forbidden.

Ondine:               Well, I feel like we’ve read everybody for filth.

CT:                        Yeah, we have. And I do want to say to workers that are out there, who are trying their best to do this in the best way possible, just do not forget that these are human beings and that our decisions that we think are going to best for the family aren’t always the right decisions. And those decisions that we do make have ripple effects for generations. And you cannot take that responsibility lightly. I know the training will gloss over those kinds of things. They’re like, “Don’t ever lose sight of people’s humanity.” These are human beings who’ve had experiences, who are trying to navigate systems that are set up for failure for them. Have a little bit of empathy in life. It’s not hard but I guess it is. It wasn’t hard for me once I realized really what was happening. But, that’s something that we don’t teach and they don’t really talk about that when they’re training. It is, here’s the policy. If it’s a policy violation, this is what you do. You got to protect kids. But, protecting kids does not always equal snatching them from their own family that they really love. Very rarely, does that. That’s not [inaudible 00:38:09]. That’s [inaudible 00:38:10].

CT:                        And so call it what it is. Call it the child welfare, the child punitive system. It’s still CPS. But, just name what it is. Just name what it is. This isn’t about protection, it’s about punishment.

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