In response to an expanding need for at home care, the state has established a highly bureaucratic system for delivering and compensating such assistance. This rigid approach to valuing care, in which needs are fragmented into easily quantifiable units, imposes under-recognized yet significant costs on workers and recipients alike.
In carefully chronicling the history, logic, and operations of the child welfare system and Tennessee’s fetal assault law, Dorothy Roberts and Wendy Bach give us accounts not of singular systems, but of something much more wide-ranging: an almost suffocating network of authorities surrounding marginalized mothers.
Throughout America’s history, the deep-seated idea that poverty is fundamentally a moral failing on the part of the poor has shaped social welfare policies and practices. If they could run their lives properly, the logic goes, they would not be poor in the first place. Accordingly, poor and non-white folks cannot be trusted to care for their children, and thus need to be coerced, through the threat of punishment, into forms of supposedly “therapeutic” state interventions.
When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton reportedly replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” To understand our current system of family policing and punishment, we similarly need begin from the idea that this is a profit-focused system, one that extracts resources by investigating, surveilling, prosecuting, and separating low-income families.
According to the official organs of the family policing system, their goal is to ensure that children are safe and receive proper care. But a closer look at this system demonstrates just how little concern it has for the well-being of children. Instead, its primary purpose is to punish parents – a cruelty exacerbated by the fact that we live in a country that makes parenting nearly impossible.
What is the relationship between “non-reformist reforms” and academic research? Scholars can, of course, write about the legislation and policy that they believe will advance transformative change. Yet the way a group seeks reform – how a group organizes and fights for political change – is as important, if not more, than the substance of the reform. Scholarship should thus highlight and analyze the work of organizers on the ground who are indispensable to achieving transformational change.
In 2013, a group of Tennessee legislators made it a crime for a pregnant woman to transmit narcotics to a fetus. The law’s supporters offered many of the traditional justifications for criminal law, but they also leaned heavily on a less familiar argument: that creating this crime would, in effect, create care. Indeed, they argued that criminalizing this behavior was a logical response to Tennessee’s opiate epidemic and healthcare crisis, as it would create incentives for judges to draw more treatment resources into court. However, to the extent that the women prosecuted under this law received any care from our legal and social welfare systems, that care was corrupted by its location within or near punishment systems.
Far from promoting the well-being of children, the so-called child welfare system weaponizes children as a way to threaten families, to scapegoat parents for societal harms to their children, and to buttress the racist, patriarchal, and capitalist status quo. Torn Apart tears off the benevolent veneer of family policing to reveal its political reality and argues that it must be abolished. To achieve this end, we need a paradigm shift in the state’s relationship to families — a reimagining of the very meaning of child welfare.
Louise Seamster, Blake Emerson, Marshall Steinbaum, Ryann Liebenthal, Jonathan Glater, Persis Yu, and Luke Herrine offer their initial reactions to the Supreme Court’s invalidation of the Biden administration’s student debt cancellation program.
With the spring submission season nearly in the books, and our Twitter feeds abuzz with placement announcements, the LPE Blog highlights some of the most exciting forthcoming LPE and LPE-adjacent articles. Covering tech, care, labor, criminal justice, religious freedom, money and banking, property, the administrative state, and so much more, this scouting report is not to be missed.
Every year, the American family policing system separates roughly half a million children from their parents. This system, though long overlooked, is increasingly being recognized for what it is: a way to control and terrorize politically marginalized communities. To date, however, challenges to family policing have largely focused on state agencies as the primary actors in this system, and courtrooms as the primary battleground, while paying less attention to other driving forces like capitalism, public-private relationships, and the powerful investigative and administrative structures in which the judicial venue is nested. Taking the lead from abolitionist’s broader work that seeks to fundamentally re-draw relationships and the distribution of resources, law school clinics should similarly expand their advocacy beyond now well-trod legal paths.
In the escalating wave of anti-trans legislation and administrative violence sweeping the United States over the past several years, the credo on the left has often been that political violence against trans people is mere pretense: a right wing culture war meant to distract from issues more properly political-economic, or a cynical ploy to motivate a conservative voting base. This superficial reading is as naïve as it is dismissive of trans people’s material circumstances. What we need, instead, is a materialist critique that identifies state transphobia as dedicated to the broader neoliberal goal of dismantling public goods and modes of care in the name of cost reduction.
U.S. childcare policy increasingly drives resources into large, formal centers under the banner of “quality assurance.” This trend has devastating impacts on home-based providers and the working families they serve.
By inviting their members to learn bureaucracies and hold them accountable, the Gray Panthers empowered elderly people to see themselves as experts capable of disentangling convoluted bureaucracies and reshaping them to better address local needs.
In Braddock, Pennsylvania – home to America’s first mill for the mass production of steel – more than a third of residents now live beneath the poverty line. How did Braddock go from a steel town to a hospital town to broke?