Mothers’ Defense Project

The Mothers’ Defense Project focuses attention on the role poverty, prejudice, and perception play in decisions made by child welfare authorities to separate families.

It’s a fact: More women are raising children as primary caregivers than men. You might expect mothers to be cited as child abusers and neglecters more often than dads based on that fact alone. But at the FDC we’ve observed that mothers are at greater risk of losing custody and being mislabeled as abusers and neglecters for reasons that have nothing to do with the care they give to their children. Mothers are targeted at higher rates than fathers and intact couples if they are:

• Poor
• Single
• A teenager
• An immigrant
• A victim of abuse themselves
• Suffer from a treatable mental health condition

Gender-plus bias in the child welfare system:

In this three-part series of articles published in the American Bar Association Children’s Rights Litigation Committee Newsletters, Diane Redleaf and FDC staff attorneys Melissa Staas and Jonathon Fazzola discuss how some mothers risk losing custody of their children because they fall into gender-specific categories, such as being victims of domestic violence or having depression:

Part One, published October 2011 (v. 14 no.1):

Protecting Mothers Against Gender-Plus Bias: Part 1

Part Two, published March 2012 (v.14 no.3):

Protecting Mothers Against Gender-Plus Bias: Part 2

Part Three, published July 2012 (v. 14 no. 4):

Protecting Mothers Against Gender-Plus Bias: Part 3