The Growing Economic Divide

The Growing Economic
An Interactive
Presentation/Discussion on Growing
Economic Inequality, Class, and Child
• Many of the charts were developed by United for a Fair
• Marguerite Marges, for her paper “The Neglect of Child
• Dee Wilson, for his some slides from “Substance Abuse
and Chronic Neglect” and “Substance Abuse and
Reunification: A Child Welfare Dilemma”
• Paul Gorski, EdChange
Facilitator Bio:
Felice Yeskel is the Director of Class Action, a national, non-profit organization that inspires action to end classism by
raising awareness, facilitating cross-class dialogue, supporting cross-class alliances, and working with others to promote
economic justice. Felice is a Founder and was the Co-Director of United for a Fair Economy for over six years. She
comes from a working-class Jewish family from New York City’s lower east side.
She is on the faculty of the Social Justice Education Program, at UMass, Amherst where she founded and directed The
Stonewall Center: A LBGT Resource Center for over 20 years. She also co-directed DiversityWorks, Inc. an organization
of social justice educators training and consulting on issues of diversity and multiculturalism. Felice has led hundreds of
workshops and given talks across the country about economic inequality and about healing divisions among people of
different class backgrounds, races, genders, and sexual orientations. Felice received her doctorate in Organizational
Development in 1991.
She is recently edited a special issue of the journal Equity and Excellence in Education on Class and Education; it
came out in March of 2008. Felice is the co-author of Economic Apartheid in America, published by The New Press in
the fall of 2000; a second edition came out in the Fall of 2005. Felice has also written chapters in the following books,
Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, The Narrow Bridge: Jewish Perspectives on Multiculturalism, Money
Talks: So Can We, and Coming Out of the Class Closet. Articles by Felice have appeared in “The Diversity Factor,”
“The Women’s Review of Books,” “Sojourner,” "The Holistic Education Review” “Journal of Women & Religion,”
“Sh'ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility,” and “Bridges: A Journal for Jewish Feminists and Our Friends.”
Felice has frequently appeared as a guest on radio shows across the country discussing issues of class, economic justice
and social change.
[email protected]
The Context of Our Work
Social and economic inequalities have risen steeply over the past 30 years.
Children and their families have been particularly disadvantaged by this
creeping impoverishment, which is associated with negative effects on
parenting capacity and developmental outcomes for children.
The social capital of communities, which consists of the cultural resources
and inter-personal relationships between members, is also eroded by
inequality and social exclusion.
Children's welfare and family functioning are crucially dependent upon the
social support available within local communities.
Helping to build economic and social capital in poor communities may be a
more effective way of promoting children's welfare than formal child
protection and family support services.
What’s child welfare?
Individual Problem or Systemic Problem?
• Delving into case files is an effective way to examine the issues that
caseworkers confront every day. But focusing on individual cases also
obscures systemic issues that profoundly affect child welfare decision-making.
• Does the child welfare system sometimes:
– Separate children from caring parents instead of providing services that would address the
family's problems?
– Concentrate more on finding fault with parents than on meeting children's needs, relying on
questionable therapies rather than concrete solutions?
• Why are so many of the families working-class or poor?
•Social factors and political decisions often determine which families get caught in
child protective services and what happens to them once they become involved.
Above the Water Line
Reason for Success
Reason for Failure
Social Policies
What happened in Child Welfare
The profile of child welfare families and of children entering the foster care system changed dramatically in
the 1980s: Neglect, substance abuse, high rates of infant placements and placements of pre-school
children, long length of stay in out-of-home care, reduced rates of reunification, and high rates of re-entry
into care resulted in large increases in states’ foster care population.
This constellation of factors was the child welfare context which led to the passage of the 1997 Adoption and
Safe Families Act (AFSA), the most important new child welfare law since 1980.
AFSA set strict timelines for public child welfare agencies to work with birth parents who have had children
removed from their custody: Once a child has been in out-of-home care 15 out of 22 months and cannot
safely be returned to parents, the child welfare agency is required to file for termination of parent rights,
absent compelling reasons to do otherwise.
AFSA also clearly states that child safety is the pre-eminent child welfare goal, so that decision makers will
have an explicit guideline if faced with a choice between child safety and supporting and strengthening
AFSA also established fiscal incentives for public child welfare systems to increase adoptions; and,
nationally adoptions have increased from about 20,000 children per year to more than 50,000 children per
Poverty/Wealth-Classism means we all lose
•Long term poverty is associated with neighborhood concentrations of poverty, family structure,
educational outcomes, parents’ work histories and change in labor market conditions
•However, even when these conditions are controlled for there is a 2-1 difference in lifetime
earnings between children growing up in middle class families vs. poor families.
(Corcoran & Chaudry, 1997)
•According to federal statistics, black children in the child welfare system are placed in foster care
at twice the rate for white children. A national study of child protective services by the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services reported that "minority children, and in particular
African American children, are more likely to be in foster care placement than receive in-home
services, even when they have the same problems and characteristics as white children"
•The costs of classism to children with class privilege may be the under-reporting of child welfare
1. The Base Shift: Equality → Equity
a. Is every child/family treated the same, and have the opportunity to receive the best possible care and
treatment, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, first language, sexual
orientation, (dis)ability, or any other dimension of difference?
b. As long as the answer to these questions remains “no,” am I, and is the system, willing to be
2. Cultural Competence → Equity and Social Justice
a. Is the focus on feeling good and celebrating difference or on institutional change?
b. Am I willing to push myself and the system out of our comfort zone to honestly and continually assess
and address inequities including racism, sexism, heterosexism (homophobia), classism, and ageism?
3. Difference as the Problem → Inequity as the Problem
a. Do I, or does my institution, tend to problematize difference and its complexities, such as language
diversity, instead of problematizing the history and present of inequities that have led us to a point of
remaining unprepared to effectively and efficiently navigate these differences?
b. Am I, or is the institution, willing to tackle inequities—even those that assign privilege to me and the
majority of those in power in the system?
4. Expectation Client Will Adapt → Responsibility Ours to Be Transformed
a. Do I, or does the institution, believe that it is the responsibility of the patient or client to adapt to the
mainstream culture?
b. Am I, or is the institution, willing to change to the same extent that people outside the mainstream
culture are forced to change just to navigate our services?
Thanks to Paul Gorski, EdChange
Resources about Class
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