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A Critical Look at CPS Policies and Their Impact

The criticism of Child Protective Services (CPS) policies and their impact on families and children is a complex and sensitive issue. Critics argue that, in some cases, CPS interventions may lead to negative outcomes for children and families, and they highlight several areas of concern regarding policy misrepresentation and funding.


Areas of Criticism

  1. Misrepresentation of Risks and Services: Critics argue that CPS sometimes misrepresents the risks children face in their family homes, leading to unnecessary removals. There's a concern that the threshold for intervention can be inconsistently applied, with decisions sometimes based more on subjective judgments than clear evidence of harm or neglect.

  2. Impact of Funding Structures: Funding for child welfare services, including CPS, often comes from federal and state governments. Critics point out that the structure of this funding can inadvertently incentivize certain actions, such as removing children from their homes to access more substantial funding streams available for foster care and adoption services, rather than investing in preventive and reunification services that could help keep families together.

  3. Overemphasis on Foster Care: There is a concern that the child welfare system, driven by its policies and funding mechanisms, may place an overemphasis on foster care rather than on services that support family preservation and reunification. While foster care is necessary and beneficial in many situations, the argument is that more resources and effort should be directed towards preventive measures that address the root causes leading to CPS involvement.

  4. Lack of Support for Families Post-Investigation: Families often experience significant stress and disruption following a CPS investigation, regardless of the outcome. Critics argue that there is inadequate support for families after an investigation concludes, especially for those who are not removed from the home but still face challenges that led to CPS involvement in the first place.

  5. Disproportionate Impact on Certain Communities: There is evidence to suggest that CPS policies and practices can have a disproportionate impact on low-income families and communities of color. Critics argue that biases and systemic inequalities contribute to disparities in who is reported to CPS and the outcomes of those reports.

Solutions and Reforms

Advocates for reform suggest several approaches to address these criticisms, including:

  • Revising Funding Structures: Advocates call for revising funding mechanisms to prioritize preventive and family reunification services over foster care and adoption.

  • Implementing More Rigorous Standards for Removal: To prevent unnecessary removals, there is a push for clearer, evidence-based criteria for when a child should be removed from their home.

  • Investing in Community-Based Support Services: Increasing investment in services that support families within their communities can help address issues before they escalate to the point of requiring CPS intervention.

  • Enhancing Training and Oversight: Improving training for CPS workers to recognize and address biases, along with better oversight of CPS practices, can help ensure more equitable and effective interventions.



The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) is a prominent organization committed to ensuring every child has the opportunity to grow up in a safe, loving, and stable family. CWLA advances policies and best practices that lead to better outcomes for children, youth, and families. They offer trainings, webinars, and learning collaboratives to deepen the knowledge and skills of workers and caregivers, aiming for a strengths-based, prevention-focused system of care. The CWLA's advocacy efforts include educating Congress about child welfare issues and working with policymakers on significant matters affecting child welfare​

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Children Now is another influential group focusing on transforming the child welfare system to ensure youth in foster care thrive. They advocate for changes in health, education, and early childhood systems to support improved outcomes for youth in foster care. Their work includes home visiting, child welfare, child care needs, health care services, education supports, trauma-informed systems, housing, and youth justice. Children Now hosts the Child Welfare Policy Roundtable to discuss major child welfare and foster care issues in California, offering a platform for systemic reform visions and policy opportunities​.


California Families Rise is an advocacy group focused on combating what it perceives as corruption within child protective services and advocating for court reform. The organization is committed to eradicating systems of injustice and oppression, particularly those that lead to the forced separation of families by Family Courts and Child Protection Agencies. Their mission encompasses transforming systems of family policing and advocating for the preservation of families, restoration of parental rights, and maintaining family bonds during family separation. They also emphasize the repeal of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) to end federal adoption incentives, arguing that these incentives contribute to the unjust separation of families


Rise Magazine, founded in 2005, is led by parents impacted by the child welfare system. Its mission is to support parents' leadership to dismantle the current family policing system by addressing cycles of harm, surveillance, and punishment. Rise aims to create communities that invest in families and offer collective care, healing, and support. They focus on preventing unnecessary system involvement and reforming child welfare policies and practices to reduce family separations and support reunification. Rise also emphasizes community organizing around a Parents’ Platform in New York City, aiming for child welfare abolition and centering the expertise of impacted parents and communities.


The Toolkit for Transformation is a resource for building an international parent-led movement fighting for families affected by child welfare. It offers a wide range of information and resources created by parent advocates and their allies. The toolkit covers various topics, including community organizing, legislative advocacy, changing practices, support groups for impacted parents, and research and evaluation. This platform aims to empower parents who have been impacted by the child welfare system to advocate for change, support families undergoing similar experiences, and raise solutions outside the system to improve children's live.


Key Features of the Toolkit

- Parent Advocacy Movement: It dives deep into the essence and evolution of the parent advocacy movement, emphasizing the power of parents who have been impacted by the child welfare system to advocate for meaningful change, support other families, and highlight external solutions to improve children's well-being.


- Community Organizing and Legislative Advocacy: The toolkit provides strategies and insights on how to engage in community organizing and legislative advocacy effectively. It aims to inspire and guide parents and their allies in mobilizing communities and influencing policy reforms that can lead to a more just and supportive system for families.


- Changing Practice: This section offers guidance on how to bring about change in child welfare practices, focusing on approaches that respect families' rights and dignity and prioritize keeping families together.


- Support Groups and Leadership Development: Recognizing the importance of peer support and leadership, the toolkit includes resources on forming support groups for impacted parents and developing parent leadership. These resources aim to empower parents to become advocates not only for their families but also for broader systemic reform.


- Support and Self-Care for Advocates: Understanding the emotional and physical toll advocacy can take, this section provides resources for self-care and support for advocates, ensuring they can sustain their efforts over the long term.


- Research and Evaluation: Highlighting the importance of evidence-based advocacy, this part of the toolkit focuses on how to utilize research and evaluation to strengthen advocacy efforts and drive systemic change.


Global Perspectives

The Toolkit for Transformation features stories and experiences from parent advocates around the world, from Australia to the United States and beyond. These stories underline the universal challenges faced by families navigating the child welfare system and the power of advocacy and community support in fostering change.


By bringing together resources, strategies, and personal experiences, the Toolkit for Transformation aims to serve as a catalyst for an international movement that empowers families to advocate for their rights, supports one another through challenging times, and works towards a child welfare system that genuinely supports and uplifts children and families.


For more detailed information and to explore the resources available, you can visit the Toolkit for Transformation website at [Toolkit for Transformation](https://toolkit.parentadvocacy.net/).

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