The stark implications of abolishing child welfare: An alternative path towards support and safety

Antonio R. Garcia, Jill Duerr Berrick, Melissa Jonson-Reid, Richard P. Barth, John R. Gyourko, Patricia Kohl, Johanna K.P. Greeson, Brett Drake, Victoria Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Scholars and advocates are at odds about how to achieve higher levels of child safety and permanency. Calls for change include the recent upEND focus on eradication of child welfare services to a radical refocusing of the present system towards prevention/early intervention. To clarify the implications of reform over abolition, we seek to portray a future in which the abolition of child welfare has occurred, in juxtaposition to maintaining four core elements of established child maltreatment programmes around the world: (1) receiving and responding to community signals about the risk to children; (2) assessment of need coupled with a proportionate response; (3) rights protections to ensure fairness when placement outside the family is required; and (4) procedures for accountability and quality improvement. For each of these functions, we outline abolitionist advocates' positions and implications for children and parents. Across these elements, we delineate how assigning these responsibilities to communities, as suggested by upEND, would likely (1) exaggerate racial and economic inequities and (2) create structural barriers that would increase harm to children. We suggest several evidence-informed enhancements to practice, research and policy that would mitigate these inequities while also increasing safety and permanency.

Original languageEnglish
JournalChild and Family Social Work
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • abolish
  • child welfare
  • evidence-based practice
  • policy reforms
  • racial inequity
  • upEND

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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