Taxing Vulnerable Children and Families Through Stategraft: It is Time to End Racialized Wealth Extraction in Foster Care

As unjust and counterproductive public policies go, taxing vulnerable children and families is among the worst. For years, experts have been sounding the alarm that foster care “child support”—making parents pay the state when it takes away their children—is bad family policy and fiscal policy. Importantly, critics have also pointed to the
myriad ways the practice is unlawful. New guidance from the federal government to the states provides a generational opportunity to dismantle this form of stategraft in the foster care system. In this Case Study we highlight promising legislative and administrative responses to the recent federal guidance.

Using the U.S. Department of Justice to Help End Juvenile Stategraft

In 2013, Berkeley Law’s Policy Advocacy Clinic began working with local advocates to study juvenile administrative fees. We found that these fees were a form of regressive and racially discriminatory wealth extraction often imposed unlawfully on youth and families across California. As part of a statewide campaign to abolish juvenile fees, we turned to the United States Department of Justice for help fighting these illegal and harmful practices in Sacramento County.