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Excerpted From: Christina Cullen, Olivia Alden, Diana Arroyo, Andy Froelich, Meghan Kasner, Conor Kinney, Anique Aburaad, Rebecca Jacobs, Alexandra Spognardi and Alexandra Kuenzli, Children and Racial Injustice in the United States: A Selective Annotated Bibliography and Call to Action, 41 Children's Legal Rights Journal 1 (2021) (28 Footnotes) (Full Document)



For many reasons, 2020 became a year of reckoning for racial injustice. While a strong and deserved focus has been paid to criminal justice and police brutality, the systemic racism that underlies those institutions and many others affects more than just adults. Children are impacted by systemic racism in myriad ways that can be tragic, maddening, life-altering, and even fatal. The clearest connection can be made to the juvenile justice system, which disproportionately surveils, arrests, convicts, incarcerates, and harms children of color. But on a more basic level, children of color born into the twenty-first century--are still living with the repercussions of hundreds of years of oppression: from slavery to Jim Crow; from redlining to the War on Drugs; and many more ongoing instances of discrimination, racism, and bias. Our nation's history of structural racism continues to permeate modern society, resulting in disparities in access to basic necessities like housing, food, healthcare, education, and more. Further, children of color are disproportionately subject to investigations, removals, and permanent separation from their families by the child welfare system. The policies, institutions, practices, and biases that disproportionately impact children and families of color severely infringe on and limit their rights.

This annotated bibliography reviews a selection of legal and other academic journal articles from the past ten years that address the nexus of children and racial injustice in the United States. It is organized into six sections: poverty, health, child welfare, education, juvenile justice, and domestic relations. With this annotated bibliography, the authors hope to shed light on legal and academic scholarship that has exposed the ways in which children of color suffer due to systemic racism, and to illuminate proposed solutions for battling and ending racial injustice. This bibliography further seeks to highlight gaps in scholarship and push for further exploration of solutions and necessary reforms. Finally, the authors hope to instigate immediate action around implementing the many brilliant legal, policy, and institutional reforms and transformations suggested by the articles that follow. The authors call on readers, particularly those who have the privilege of advanced education and the power of their professions, to thoughtfully consider the ways in which their work may contribute to racial injustice; to work tirelessly to safeguard the rights of children of color; and to advocate for anti-racist policies, practices, and institutions that will help ensure all children are given a true opportunity to thrive in their families and communities.

[. . .]

I. Poverty

In the United States, nearly one in six children live in poverty. Children of color comprise a disproportionate percentage of children in poverty; approximately 73% of impoverished children in the United States are children of color. Almost one in three Black children, one in three American Indian-Alaska Native children, and one in four Latinx children live in poverty compared to one in eleven white children. These disparities in wealth can have long-term negative implications on the well-being of children of color. Thus, when examining the causes of and solutions to childhood poverty, it is essential to consider the disproportionate rate at which children and families of color experience poverty. The articles below discuss children's inequitable experiences of poverty and suggest different theories for understanding and addressing this important issue.

[. . .]

II. Health

The environment in which children grow up, including their homes and broader community spaces, can have a profound impact on their physical and mental health throughout their lifetimes. Accordingly, when Black, Latinx, and Native American children experience inequitable access to healthcare and healthy environments, they are also more likely to experience inequitable health concerns as adults. Such health disparities have only been emphasized by the COVID-19 pandemic. The articles below discuss the interplay between racial disparities and health outcomes in children, and how these disparities impact children's abilities to learn, grow, form healthy relationships, and even to live. In order to address these inequities and create a better future for children of color, children's advocates must go beyond acknowledging the social determinants of health. As the articles below will discuss, health equity for children cannot be achieved until we recognize and address the systemic racism that pervades our society.

[. . .]

III. Child Welfare

While the child welfare system intends to protect maltreated children, it is vital to examine how its practices and policies actually impact children and their families. The majority of children are removed from their families for neglect, not abuse. Neglect, like a child's “best interests,” is often loosely defined statutorily and thus is open to interpretation based on class, race, and other biases. Children of color are removed from their homes, linger in foster care, and are permanently separated from their families at alarmingly disproportionate rates. This bibliography questions whether a system that protects some children at the cost of reproducing racial inequality and permanently separating families of color en masse is a system worth continuing in its current form. The following articles examine racial disproportionality and disparity in child welfare from various disciplines and provide suggestions and strategies worth implementing.

[. . .]

IV. Education

All students deserve access to a high-quality education in a safe and nurturing school environment. But as the following articles demonstrate, this is not the reality for students of color in the United States. With disparities in academic achievement, in the prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences, in the rates of exclusionary discipline, and in the prison-like school environments that exist in many communities of color, students of color face an uphill battle toward achieving a meaningful education in America. However, the authors of the articles listed below offer a clear roadmap forward and persuasively identify the roots of systemic racism in American schools.

[. . .]

V. Juvenile Justice

The juvenile justice system is host to clear racial inequities. Despite making up only 34% of the U.S. population, youth of color represent 62% of those charged in the juvenile justice system. Furthermore, when charged, youth of color often receive harsher sentences than their white counterparts. Black youth are five times more likely to be incarcerated than white youth, and Latinx youth are two to three times more likely. As the following articles will show, racial profiling and implicit biases held by members of law enforcement and legal system stakeholders are two factors that have led to the overcriminalization, and sometimes deaths, of Black and Latinx youth. This bibliography asserts that, rather than offering rehabilitation and support as the original juvenile justice court intended, the disparate and harsh punishment of youth of color steals their adolescent years, lays roadblocks for their futures, and perpetuates racial inequality. The articles below examine these issues in depth and offer comprehensive suggestions for improvement.

[. . .]

VI. Domestic Relations

Domestic relations courts are often primarily viewed as spaces in which adults argue and resolve issues related to their own relationships, whether they were married or not. However, even rules and decisions that are primarily intended to control the actions of parents can, and often do, have profound impact on their children. When making a decision about a parent's future based on racial biases, a judge also affects the future of his or her child. Conversely, a judge who is “color-blind” to a parent's race may fail to consider aspects of that parent's experience that result from structural inequality. The articles that follow suggest that decisions based on this color-blindness, or on racial bias, can have serious impacts on the parent's child in the form of financial support, ability to have a relationship with that parent, and on communities of color as a whole by masking or perpetuating structural racism.

The authors are 2020-2021 editorial board members and staff members of the Children's Legal Rights Journal

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