Sloane Martin

Lawmakers, Families Seek Bill to Racial Disparities in Child Protective Services

Some African-American lawmakers and advocates say their community is unfairly targeted by Child Protective Services

April 10, 2018 - 3:13 pm

The aim of Child Protective Services is to identify and remove children who are in unsafe or dangerous situations, but some African-American lawmakers and advocates say their community is unfairly targeted and it's breaking up families, while taking away resources from “truly” vulnerable children.

Three people with personal stories with the department at the county level spoke at the state capitol Tuesday to support a proposed bill called the African-American Family Preservation Act, sponsored by Rep. Rena Moran and Sen. Jeff Hayden. The goal is to provide oversight of these cases to ensure they are being handled properly.

The bill would, among other things, require that the counties make active efforts to place children with available relatives and also allow parents, guardians and social workers to petition the court for a reinstatement of parental rights, and not just the county attorney, as is currently the cause, according to Kelis Houston, chair of the NAACP's Child Protection Committee.

The people spoke Tuesday told similar stories about being thrust into a process that impeded their rights and kept their children from relatives, while providing them with murky or inaccurate information Some continue to fight for custody after years.

DeClara Tripp says she has custody of her three older children, but not the youngest.

“It’s very traumatizing,” she said. “It’s very emotional for me. It’s a battle I know I can’t win by myself. I love all of my children so to single out one of my children and to insinuate that I have a problem parenting one of them versus all four is an issue for me.”

Rep. Moran read the finding of the task force convened following the death of 4-year-old Eric Dean in 2014. It said that the department needs to “establish better connections” with the African-American community and recognized that disparities do exist. Though the deadline this session has passed for a hearing, Moran and Hayden say they are hopeful it can be attached to another bill.

Starshema Jones is fighting for custody of her five children and says bringing attention to this issue is important.

“I’m here, most importantly, for my kids,” she said, “but in support of this bill because it’s not only my family. There are millions of families affected by this and we need a resolution.”


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