Child Welfare and Social Work Education

From a Pedagogy of Oppression to a Pedagogy of Resistance


  • Sandra M. Leotti University of Wyoming
  • Erin P. Sugrue Augsburg University
  • Miriam Itzkowitz
  • Kelly Williams



social work education, Title IV-E, child welfare, foster care, abolition, critical social work


Social work has long been involved in child welfare practice. Though lauded as well- intended and admirable work, the profession’s involvement in the child welfare system is fraught with contradictions, ethical tensions, and a legacy of historical trauma and deep mistrust in Black and Native American communities. Challenging this legacy requires an honest look at how schools of social work participate in policies and practices that work to uphold racialized surveillance and forcible family separation. Accordingly, this paper invites readers into a critical conversation regarding social work’s collaboration with child welfare systems via Title IV-E training programs. To these ends, we draw on the conceptual framework of abolition as a useful tool for interrogating and disrupting social work’s relationship to child welfare.


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