Lived Experiences of Racism Among Child Welfare-Involved Parents

Darcey H. Merritt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The problem of racism has always been a pervasive issue deeply rooted in the fabric of our country. Many of our established social and human services have been structured based on the insidious nature of racism and oppression. The Child Welfare System (CWS) is not exempt and race-based inequities experienced by CWS-involved Black and Latinx families remain persistent and harmful. This article presents a qualitative account that underscores the lived experiences of racism among CWS-involved parents. Two emergent themes are highlighted: (1) the impact of CWS surveillance and oversight and (2) perceptions of race-based mistreatment and unfair judgment. In-depth interviews were conducted with 17 primarily Black and Latinx parents in order to investigate their perceptions regarding CWS oversight and ways in which their minority status played a role in how they were treated. There is inherent racism in the surveillance, reporting and assessment, and resulting determinations regarding Black and Latinx people in the child welfare system. This manifests in service delivery practices underpinned by an unbalanced power dynamic between caseworkers and parents. Overall, parents expressed feeling disrespected, fearful of family disruption, shamed and judged based on implicit biases. Implications for policy and system changes are discussed, including a call to include the voices of historically disenfranchised Black and Latinx CWS-involved families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-72
Number of pages10
JournalRace and Social Problems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Black and Latinx parents
  • Child welfare system oversight
  • Judgement
  • Parental voices
  • Racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Lived Experiences of Racism Among Child Welfare-Involved Parents'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this