Additional Reading


  • Nina Bernstein, The Lost Children of Wilder: The Epic Struggle to Change Foster Care (Pantheon: 2001).
  • NEW: Tina Lee, Catching a Case: Inequality and Fear in New York City’s Child Welfare System (Rutgers University Press: 2016).
  • Malcolm Bush, Families in Distress: Public, Private and Civic Responses (University of California Press, 1988).
  • Mary Callahan, Memoirs of a Baby Stealer: Lessons I’ve Learned as a Foster Mother (Pinewoods Press: 2003).
  • Martin Guggenheim, What’s Wrong with Children’s Rights (Harvard University Press, 2005)
  • E.P. Jones, Where is Home? Living Through Foster Care (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1990).
  • Leroy Pelton, For Reasons of Poverty: A Critical Analysis of the Public Child Welfare System in the United States (Praeger: 1989).
  • Dorothy Roberts, Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Civitas Books: 2002).
  • Lizbeth B. Schorr, Within Our Reach: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage (Anchor Press/Doubleday: 1988).
  • Lizbeth B. Schorr, Common Purpose: Strengthening Families and Neighborhoods to Rebuild America (Anchor Press/Doubleday: 1997).
  • Richard Wexler, Wounded Innocents: The Real Victims of the War Against Child Abuse (Prometheus Books: 1990).


Where no link is available, the story usually is available from NCCPR.

  • NEW: The headline on this New York Times story sums up perfectly the state of American child welfare: Foster Care as Punishment: The New Reality of ‘Jane Crow'”
  • From NPR, a searing three-part series on what child protective services in South Dakota has done to the state’s Native American children.
  • Parenting Under Scrutiny.  From a New York Times blog, a remarkable essay on who really gets caught in the child protective services net, and why.
  •  The New York Times examines the progress made in Florida by reforming child welfare to emphasize family preservation. (Sadly, there has been a lot of backsliding since this story was published.)
  • The transformation of child welfare in Maine is examined in this program from Maine Public Broadcasting.
  • The New York Times explores reefer madness at New York City’s child welfare agency – where families are traumatized and children sometimes taken away just because the parents possess small amounts of marijuana
  • Did the Philadelphia Inquirer’s coverage of child welfare in that city start a foster-care panic?  Philadelphia’s alternative weekly, Citypaper, examines the issue in this cover story.
  • In contrast, in 2010, the competing Philadelphia Daily News showed the value of a two-newspaper town, repeatedly putting cases of wrongful removal on the front page.
  • January 21: Avalanche of anguish
  • February 22: Is home where the heart is?
  • March 30: Why did DHS take away the kids?
  • What can needless removal and foster care do to a young child in just six months? A searing story from Texas lets you literally see for yourself.
  • We’ve all read “horror stories” about child maltreatment.  But in a story by the reporter who would go on to expose the Flint water crisis, Detroit’s alternative weekly Metro Times documents how the real horror is what typical agencies do in typical cases.
  • After a child died in foster care in Springfield, Missouri, the Springfield News-Leader began looking for solutions. The newspaper produced an extensive package of news stories and commentary about the successful transformation of child welfare in Alabama. Stories include: Work to keep families together, Alabama workers: To get it right, work from ground up, and Panel of everyday people looks for trends, keeps watch on work.
  • The New York Times also examined the Alabama reforms in this excellent story.
  • The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program has largely escaped critical media scrutiny.  A rare and important exception, again from Youth Today is An Evaluation of Volunteers Courts Controversy from the July/August 2004 issue, available by subscription. A Youth Today columnist’s assessment of the study that was the subject of the story is available at no charge.  And NCCPR is pleased to make available the study itself, now that it seems to have been removed from CASA’s own website.
  • The author of the CASA story, former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Barbara White Stack, was given rare access to court hearings in child abuse and neglect cases that normally are closed to press and public. The result has been several important stories from Allegheny County, Pa., including Family values: Court, CYF show preference for reuniting families over foster care (November 17, 2002) and Caseworkers can Make or Break a Family (October 13, 2002)
  • Things are very different in neighboring Beaver County, Pa.  See Barbara White Stack, When the Bough Breaks, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dec. 12 – 15, 1999.
  •  Another series by Stack, Open Justice, documented the benefits of opening court hearings in cases of alleged child maltreatment all over the country.
  •  Some of the finest journalism ever done on child welfare is by Nina Bernstein of The New York Times.  Stories include: Daily Choice Turned Deadly: Children Left on Their Own, October 19, 2003, When the Foster Care System Forgets Fathers, May 4, 2000, Family Needs Far Exceed The Official Poverty Line, September 13, 2000.
  • An outstanding examination of a typical “in-between” case is a three-part Boston Globe series by Patricia Wen in 2003.  Barbara’s Story was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
  • The horrors, and the waste, of “residential treatment” are exposed in this superb cover story from Washington D.C.’s alternative weekly CityPaper.
  • In 2002, The Westchester County, N.Y. Journal News did three excellent multi-part series about problems at the county’s “Residential Treatment Centers.”  The series looked not only at specific incidents but also at whether RTCs really are needed, and at better alternatives.  This excellent series no longer is available on the Journal News website.  Some of the articles are available from NCCPR.
  •  The people who run RTCs and similar institutions almost always insist that every child in them really needs to be there and there are no alternatives.  An institution that proves those claims are wrong is the subject of a story in Youth Today.  See The Gift of Wrapping in the June, 2003 issue.
  • For those concerned about the hype over methamphetamine and child welfare, a reality check can be found in the excellent trade journal, Youth Today in a story called The Meth Epidemic: Hype vs. Reality (October, 2005).  See also two stories from the website, The Media’s Meth Mania and The Media Go Into “Crack Baby” Mode Over Meth.  Also, see Prof. Barry Lester’s commentary on the website, One Hit of Meth Enough to Cause ‘News Defects’.
  • One of the finest examples of a story documenting the price of foster-car panic is D.C. Social Workers Remove More Kids by Petula Dvorak of The Washington Post, June 3, 2008, available for a fee from the Post archive.
  • Another superb example, one which included a remarkably candid assessment of the role media played in making the panic worse, is from the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2004.  The headline says it all: Child welfare gone haywire.
  • Michael Gougis, “Protected to Death: L.A. County’s child-protective agency said Debra Reid was a bad mother, so it took away her 9-year-old son Jonathan. Six weeks later, he was dead.” New Times, Los Angeles, October 8, 1998. This newspaper is no longer in business. A copy of the article is available from NCCPR.
  •  Julie Jargon, “Baby Formula: Take one Mexican father, one drug-addicted mother, and a pair of foster parents. Take away one baby.” Westword, Denver, Colorado, September 7, 2000. Also, see the follow-up story.
  •  Dara Colwell, “Adorable and Adoptable: a spate of new laws and financial incentives has made it easier (and more profitable) for Child Protective Services to take ostensibly abused kids away from their parents. But has the new system for fast-tracking adoptions gone too far, too fast?” Metro, San Jose, California, July 13, 2000.
  •  Tracy Weber, “Caretakers Routinely Drug Foster Children,” and “Prescription for Tragedy,” Los Angeles Times, May 17, 1998.
  •  Debra Jasper and Elliot Jaspin, “Foster Care’s Castoff Children,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 26-29, 1999.
  •  Jim Okerblom and John Wilkens, “In the Best Interest of the Child?” San Diego Union, Dec. 9, 1991.
  •  Lisa Demer, “Nobody’s Child,” Tampa Tribune, August 15 – 18, 1993.
  •  Kent Pollock, “The Child Protectors,” Sacramento Bee, Aug. 4, 1986.
  •  William Heffernan and Stewart Ain, “Big Money, Little Victims” (Title of first story in untitled six-part series on New York City foster care system) New York Daily News, May 13-18 1975. Though this series is over 30 years old, it was only in 2007 that the New York City child welfare agency began to address the issues of financial incentives which it highlights.


  • The Nation asks: “Has Child Protective Services Gone Too Far” and answers with a resounding yes.
  • Rise, a magazine written by families caught up in child welfare systems, is an outstanding resource.
  • Analysis of ASFA: NCCPR Executive Director Richard Wexler’s analysis of the so- called Adoption and Safe Families Act was published in the New England Law Review and is available in pdf format, here.


  • A truly-extraordinary report, one that is, in effect, an X-ray of a child welfare agency’s soul was issued by the Center for the Study of Social Policy in 2009.  The long, academic title notwithstanding the report, about racial bias, and much more, in child welfare in Michigan reads more like good investigative reporting than just another study.
  • Similar to the Michigan report, a report by the Citizens Review Board for child protective services in Washington DC combines data with compelling case examples to document findings that  hundreds of children have been wrongfully taken from their families.
  • Also from Michigan, the Fall, 2009 issue of the Michigan Child Welfare Law Journal is an outstanding resource for anyone interested in how child welfare really works.  The issue focuses on the urgent need for high-quality legal representation for families caught up in child welfare systems.  See especially the article by one such parent, Nancy Colon, and the article by Tracy Green, Managing Attorney for the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy.
  • The National CASA Association commissioned a study that was supposed to tell the world how wonderful the Court-Appointed Special Advocates program is.  But it didn’t work out that way.  National CASA appears to have removed the report from its website.  We’re pleased to make it available here.
  • At the suggestion of NCCPR, the New Jersey Office of Child  Advocate examined Families Under Supervision of the New Jersey child welfare agency, and found families who could have safely remained together had the agency provided the right kinds of help.
  • Making Child Welfare Work: How the R.C. Lawsuit Forged New Partnerships to Protect Children and Sustain Families, (Washington, DC: Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, 1998).
  • Office of the New York City Public Advocate, Justice Denied: The Crisis in Legal Representation of Birth Parents in Child Welfare Proceedings. May 12, 2000.
  • Martin Guggenheim, “The Effects of Recent Trends to Accelerate the Termination of Parental Rights of Children in Foster Care — An Empirical Analysis in Two States,” Family Law Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 1, Spring 1995.
  • The 1991-92 San Diego County Grand Jury spent a year investigating that county’s child protective system with extraordinary thoroughness. The portrait painted by their reports is frightening. Though they focused on only one county, the system in San Diego is typical of the operations of child protective services throughout the United States. Reports include: Report No.2, Families in Crisis, Feb. 6, 1992; Report No.6, The Case of Alicia W., June 23, 1992 ; Report No.7, The Crisis in Foster Care, June 29, 1992; Report No.8, Child Sexual Abuse, Assault, and Molest Issues, June 29, 1992; and Families in Crisis — Supplement, June 29, 1992. This last report documents what the Grand Jury viewed as a remarkable willingness by authorities in San Diego to respond to the Grand Jury’s findings and try to change the system.
  • Karen Benker and James Rempel, Inexcusable Harm: The Effect of Institutionalization on Young Foster Children in New York City (May, 1989). Public Interest Health Consortium for New York City. This report is out of print, but available through the coalition.