How Do Families Experience and Interact with CPS?

Darcey H. Merritt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The lived experiences of child protective services (CPS)–involved parents is rarely considered from a social justice perspective. Parents and children endure the oversight of the child welfare system in myriad ways, and these experiences usually vary based on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. This article explores how CPS interactions affect family dynamics and well-being and how family members view their experiences with CPS, including their sense of autonomy and empowerment. I focus on the inherent power dynamics between CPS workers and parents, race and ethnicity, and family. I highlight the perspectives of parents and their intended (rather than unintentional) parental behaviors (e.g., providing healthy food choices) to understand ways in which their socioecological contexts impact the well-being of their children. I report results of a pilot study designed to enhance the voices of parents in the literature and provide recommendations for policy and practice that inform innovative solutions to better support CPS-involved families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-226
Number of pages24
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • child protective services processes
  • child welfare system
  • low-income child
  • minority child
  • parents’
  • perspectives
  • welfare families

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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