Fantastic news from California: stopping children being taken from mothers because of poverty about to become law

Our sisters in Give Us Back Our Children (GUBOC) in Los Angeles, which is part of the Support Not Separation Coalition, have been lobbying in support of Senator Kamlager’s Bill SB1085 and sent us the following report.  We have been speaking about this on our monthly picket, as well as on our twitter thread, because we need similar legislation here to change the definition of ‘neglect’ in the Children Act. Take away our poverty NOT our children.


SB 1085, a California state bill which will prohibit family courts from separating a child from his/her family solely because of poverty, has been passed by both the state Senate and Assembly and is on its way to the governor’s desk for signature. Once signed, which we understand the governor will do, it will become law in California and will also establish an important precedent throughout the US and beyond.

A New Way of Life Reentry Project (ANWOL), a nationally-acclaimed reentry program for formerly incarcerated women in South LA, working together with California Senator Sydney Kamlager (a Black woman representing part of Los Angeles) who introduced SB 1085 last February, led the way.  It changes the state Welfare & Institutions Code to prohibit children from being separated from their families solely because of ‘financial difficulty’, including homelessness or the inability to afford clothing, home or property repair, or childcare.  For latest wording see here.

Los Angeles has the third highest rates of child removal among large US cities, and children are often taken from their families, disproportionately families of color, due to charges of ‘neglect’ when poverty is the problem. Currently, the overly broad definition of neglect provides a social worker free reign to initiate the removal of a child from their parents for minor circumstances relating to poverty.

Give Us Back Our Children, of which A New Way of Life is part, has supported SB 1085’s passage. In June we found out that the chair of the Assembly Human Services committee was threatening to stop the Bill unless the specific language re not removing children due solely to lack of clothing, shelter, home or property repair, or childcare was removed, because of concern that social workers wouldn’t be able to remove children. ANWOL was told the committee was getting pressure from the County Welfare Directors Association.  GUBOC helped organize support for keeping the specific language in the Bill including letters to the committee, a twitter storm tagging committee members, and calls to the committee hearing expressing strong support. We’re glad to report that no one in the Human Services Committee including the Chair raised any objection to passing the entire bill out of Committee without removing the specific language.  

Attached are letters in support of SB 1085  

Give Us Back Our Children – thanks to all including Support Not Separation who helped with this letter; 

Richard Wexler, National Director of the Coalition for Child Protection Reform;

SWEPT, Social Workers Ending Poverty Together – Ann Rall, who’s part of GUBOC and of the National Welfare Rights Union, also a social worker, drafted letter for SWEPT.   

Give us Back Our Children (GUBOC) also sent a letter to the County Welfare Directors Association asking them to withdraw their request to cut the specific language. We’re very excited to see this bill on its way to becoming law.

We’re very excited to see this bill on its way to becoming law.

Give Us Back Our Children is a national and local multiracial network of organizations, mothers, grandmothers and supporters demanding an end to unjust separation of children from their mothers and other primary caregivers because of conditions that result from poverty, if mothers are victims of domestic violence, or the criminalization of poverty.  Give Us Back Our Children includes Alexandria House, A New Way of Life Reentry Project, DCFS/DHS Give Us Back Our Children, Every Mother is a Working Mother Network, Mothers Outreach Network, National Welfare Rights Union and is coordinated by Global Women’s Strike and Women of Color/GWS.  GUBOC is part of the global Support Not Separation Coalition.