Take Away Our Poverty, Not Our Children! Families and community campaigners celebrate SB 1085 now law in California

Fantastic news: 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 Sydney Kamlager’s Bill SB1085 and have just told us that it’s been signed into law! 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. See the speech we made at our 7 September picket outside London’s central family court here.

PRESS RELEASE from Give Us Back Our Children, California, 7 October 2022

In response to the urging and actions of impacted families and community-based organizations including Give Us Back Our Children (GUBOC), Governor Newsom signed SB1085, Juveniles: dependency: jurisdiction of the juvenile court,into law on September 30th. SB1085 changes the state’s Welfare & Institutions Code to prohibit family courts from separating a child from his/her family solely because of poverty. SB 1085 was authored by California Senator Sydney Kamlager (D 30) and championed by A New Way of Life Reentry Project (ANWOL), a nationally acclaimed program for formerly incarcerated women in South LA. 

Signing SB 1085 into law will be key in limiting the unwarranted separation of California families by child welfare and observers say establishes a national precedent.

Key language in SB 1085 states: families should not be subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court nor should children be separated from their parents based on conditions of financial difficulty, including, but not limited to, a lack of food, clothing, shelter or childcare…

Supporters say the law will help limit the rampant separation of California families, disproportionately Black and Brown children, by child welfare because poverty has been conflated with neglect.  Los Angeles is number three among large US cities in separating the greatest number of children from their families. In 2020 three quarters of children removed from families in LA County were Black and Latino (LA Times). 58% of Black Children in LA County will endure an investigation by LA’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) before the age of 18; the same is true for about half of the county’s Native American children. 

In pushing for passage of SB1085, GUBOC organized twitter storms and a successful letter writing campaign that got response from, among others: national authority on child welfare abuses Richard Wexler, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform; SWEPT: Social Workers Ending Poverty Together; and Support Not Separation, an international coalition begun in the UK to end the unwarranted and damaging separation of children from their mothers or other primary caregivers.  All had an impact in successfully moving the legislation forward.

The crucial bond between mother and child has to be respected and defended. Poverty must no longer be conflated with neglect. Impoverished mothers, grandmothers and other primary caregivers love our children. We are excited to hear that the Governor has finally signed SB 1085. Child welfare agencies and social workers must now work to ensure that it is implemented swiftly and in full, so that families can be reunited and impoverished mothers and children are no longer terrorized by the child welfare system but instead get the concrete assistance they need. And the US must urgently reinstate a refundable Child Tax Credit that has been shown to lift children out of poverty.  Give Us Back Our Children.

Conditions of poverty alone should not be the reason to permanently separate a parent from their child. SB 1085 will help vulnerable families who are at risk of being separated by allowing social workers to make more informed decisions on reporting neglect. It’s time for us to work together to create policies that focus more on supporting families, not separation. Stephanie Jeffcoat, All of Us or None Organizer at A New Way of Life

I made a home for my nieces, I loved them and they were happy living with me. But the Department of Human Services (Philadelphia) profiled me because I’m poor and Black, and despite our protests, they removed my nieces and placed them with another family because they had more money.  If we had a law in Pennsylvania like they now have in California, child welfare wouldn’t have been able to do this to us. Carolyn Hill, DHS Give Us Back Our Children, Philadelphia and Give Us Back Our Children

Taking children because mothers, overwhelmingly single mothers, are poor is effectively sexist and racist, and shows no concern for the welfare of the child; the last thing a child in a family affected by poverty needs is to lose their mother. Mothers are the primary caregivers in most families and are impoverished because they are doing this essential unpaid labor, often in addition to poorly paid jobs.  It is time the state showed appreciation for this work by supporting mothers and protecting the vital bond between mother and child.  SWEPT: Social Workers Ending Poverty Together, which is part of the National Welfare Rights Union

It’s existing law that makes children less safe by making it easy to confuse poverty with neglect.  It’s existing law that endangers children’s emotional well-being by making it so easy to traumatize them with needless separation from everyone they know and love.  It’s existing law that makes it so easy to put children at risk of abuse in foster care itself. In contrast, SB 1085 would make all vulnerable children in California safer. Richard Wexler, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

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, Global Women’s Strike, Mothers Outreach Network, National Welfare Rights Union, and Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike. 

Give Us Back Our Children is coordinated by the Global Women’s Strike & Women of Color/GWS and is part of the international Support Not Separation network.  
Contact: giveusbackourchildren@gmail.com
PO Box 86681, Los Angeles, CA 90086