The Child Welfare League of America is pleased to announce a call for abstracts for a special issue of Child Welfare journal dedicated to transforming child welfare through anti-racist approaches.*  

Much has changed since CWLA published its first special issue on challenging racial disproportionality in child welfare in 2008. However, the overrepresentation of children of color and inequitable outcomes for children of color persist.

While progress has been made, attention to and urgency to act on racial disproportionality and disparities has waned in recent years, and what has been observed as a problem for more than five decades is now viewed by many as an acceptable status quo. This is due in large part to binary debates regarding whether disproportionality is the result of racial bias in child welfare or of differing levels of need due to poverty and related factors. This debate not only has stifled efforts to address disproportionality, but has distracted from the negative and oppressive impact of racism that creates disproportionality and disparities, both within child welfare and within society at large. At a time in our history where we are witnessing the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color, it is imperative for the child welfare field to return our attention to the racial inequities that persist in this system, and identify solutions to achieve racial equity.

The history of child welfare, like the history of most formal structures in the United States, is one that has involved the gradual, insidious development of a system which has resulted in supporting and maintaining racial inequity and the supremacy of people who are White. Throughout its history, racism has been embedded in child welfare systems’ policies and structures to first exclude children of color from involvement and later to over-include and perpetuate oppression against them. Can a system that began with a racist intent evolve into a system that promotes and achieves racial equity? Or does a new framework need to be considered that reimagines the response to child maltreatment as fundamentally different than what was created?

This special journal issue will address these questions by focusing on the underlying issues that perpetuate and support the overrepresentation of children of color – racism and White supremacy – and anti-racist approaches that improve child and family outcomes and address racial inequities. Policy-based, theoretical, and empirical papers that employ a variety of methods are welcomed. Guest editors are Alan Dettlaff (University of Houston) and Kristen Weber (Center for the Study of Social Policy).

Of particular interest are manuscripts that examine the following:

  • Ways in which existing child welfare policies, practices, and research end up reinforcing racism and inequality while maintaining White supremacy.
  • Ways in which other child and family serving systems’ policies, practices, and research end up reinforcing racial inequity in child welfare.
  • Individual and community consequences of racial disproportionality and disparities.
  • Strategies for applying anti-racist approaches to child welfare policies, practice, and research to achieve equity.
  • Innovations in child welfare that have identified and challenged racism by changing organizational structures, policies, and practices in anti-racist ways such as redistributing power in an equitable manner.
  • Examples of responses that have moved toward achieving equity and critiques of responses that maintain inequity. Examples can include responses that account for the impact of racial oppression by centering race and interrogating the intersections of additional forms of oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, class, immigration status, and ability.
  • The impacts of COVID-19 on families of color involved in child welfare, and creative strategies used to mitigate the exacerbation of negative outcomes as a result of this crisis.
  • The experiences of racism and bias among children and families of color involved in child welfare.
  • Legislative solutions to promote racial equity.
  • Innovative culturally responsive strategies that rethink the child welfare system as one that supports families and ensures their safety without the need for separation of children from their families.

Prospective authors should submit abstracts of up to 750 words to Rachel Adams, managing editor,  at by August 3, 2020. Abstracts should display the use of person-first language (i.e., “children in foster care,” not “foster children”), clearly identify the topic, methods (including data sources for empirical papers), expected or preliminary findings, and practice and policy implications. Invitations to submit a full article will be extended by August 15. Initial drafts of the selected papers are due by November 9, and final papers are expected by March 15, 2021. Publication of the special issue is targeted for Summer 2021.


* The Center for the Study of Social Policy defines anti-racism as the active process of identifying and challenging racism, by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices, and attitudes to redistribute power in an equitable manner. (Retrieved from