Domestic Child Welfare

CAP has played a major leadership role in this arena, promoting better protection for children against maltreatment, including early prevention and support policies, and opposing popular child welfare “reform” movements that we believe are contrary to children’s best interests, such as the Racial Disproportionality Movement and the Differential Response Movement.  For specifics see:


Challenge to the Differential Response Movement


Challenge to the Racial Disproportionality Movement


Domestic Child Welfare Conferences and Workshops

Prevention and Protection Brainstorming Workshop

In May 2012, CAP convened the Prevention & Protection (P&P) Workshop as a follow up to the Race and Child Welfare Conference described below. The P&P Workshop took as a given that too many children, of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, are subject to maltreatment, and that the child welfare field should place more emphasis on preventing maltreatment and protecting vulnerable children. The goal was to have a relatively small group of child welfare leaders and related professionals think together about the most promising directions for future policies and programs. We looked for new ideas, and also for existing good ideas that had not been given an adequate try. We urged participants to think creatively and boldly, but also to have as a goal producing some “take-away ideas” capable of early implementation. For more information, including materials, participants, and the agenda, see the P&P Workshop website. For Bartholet articles summing up the significance of the workshop see “Creating a Child-Friendly Child Welfare System: Effective Early Intervention to Prevent Maltreatment and Protect Victimized Children,” 60 Buffalo L Rev 1323 (2012) and “Creating A Child-Friendly Child Welfare System: The Use and Misuse of Research,” 13 Whittier J. Child & Fam Advocacy 1 (2014).

Race and Child Welfare Conference

In January 2011, CAP hosted a major conference entitled: “Race & Child Welfare: Disproportionality, Disparity, Discrimination: Re-Assessing the Facts, Re-Thinking the Policy Options.” Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago was the Affiliate Sponsor. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) were participating organizations. The conference built on the momentum created by Bartholet’s article exploring the racial disproportionality movement in child welfare: “The Racial Disproportionality Movement in Child Welfare: False Facts and Dangerous Directions,” 51 Ariz. L. Rev. 871 (2009).  The conference examined the facts around race and child welfare and a range of policy options. The aim was to change the debate, moving away from the misperception that social worker bias is the central problem, and addressing appropriate directions for future policy. Conference participants included an array of influential experts in the field including from the legal and judicial arenas, child services organizations, and academia. For more on the conference, including conference-related materials, video recordings, and press coverage, see the Race & Child Welfare Conference website. For post-conference papers summing up the significance of the conference see Bartholet, Elizabeth, Fred Wulczyn, Richard P. Barth, and Cindy Lederman, “Chapin Hall Issue Brief on Race & Child Welfare,” June 2011 and Bartholet, “Race & Child Welfare: Disproportionality, Disparity, Discrimination: Re-Assessing the Facts, Re-Thinking the Policy Options,” July 2011 (this second piece can also be found on SSRN).

Parental Substance Abuse and Child Maltreatment Workshop

The intersection between parental substance abuse and child maltreatment is key to policy reform in the child welfare area. CAP Faculty Director Elizabeth Bartholet has addressed this intersection in her book Nobody’s Children, and CAP has had many course classes, conferences, and special events addressing it as well, and assessing some of the most promising reform initiatives in the field. In December 2009, we brought to HLS a diverse group of Massachusetts experts – including physicians who treat infant-exposed newborns, a leading prosecutor of alleged abusers, and staff from the Massachusetts child protective agency – with the goal of assessing Massachusetts policy in this area and exploring reform options.

See Child Advocacy Program Sponsored or Supported Conferences for descriptions of additional conferences.


Amicus briefs signed by CAP Faculty Director, Elizabeth Bartholet, and Assistant Director, Crisanne Hazen related to domestic child welfare reform:

Earlier Work

Response to Donaldson Institute’s Call To Amend MEPA

CAP Faculty Director Elizabeth Bartholet testified at a Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute Briefing on June 10, 2008, responding to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute’s call to amend the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA). See the full text of Bartholet’s remarks supporting the current formulation of MEPA, which prohibits using race as a factor in foster and adoptive placement decisions. See also Professor Bartholet’s Publications page, specifically:

First CAP Amicus Brief Filed

In November 2007, CAP filed its first amicus brief, in a case asking the NY Court of Appeals to grant review of a decision below which created deeply problematic standards limiting the State’s ability to intervene to protect children against abuse and neglect. CAP’s brief supported the state child protection agency and was written by CAP Faculty Director Elizabeth Bartholet with the help of CAP students Julianne Johnston and Grace Spulak.


For information about CAP’s efforts related to international child welfare see International Child Welfare: Human Rights of Unparented Children and International Adoption.