DENVER -- “Poverty doesn’t equal neglect!” So read one of the many signs carried by protesters Saturday, June 4, at the Colorado state Capitol steps.
It was the second annual protest set up by the Denver-based MJCF Coalition against what it considers to be racism in the child-welfare system.
The protest was led by Maleeka (MJ) Jihad, the director/CEO of the MJCF Coalition, who said the nonprofit organization includes survivors of the child-welfare system and professionals in the system. Jihad said the coalition’s goal is “to abolish the child-welfare system.”
“There is a misconception that the child-welfare system is built to protect families. We know that … 82% of all families that are involved within the family regulation system are actually captured within the system due to neglect,” Jihad said. “A lot of people mistake poverty for neglect, so we want to make sure that we acknowledge and highlight that fact.”
The coalition’s website cites research indicating that Black people and other people of color are statistically more likely than white people to be targeted for child-welfare actions, including sending children to foster care and loss of parental rights.
The protest march started at the Capitol and ended at Benedict Fountain Park, about a mile and a half away. At the park, MJCF Coalition members passed out chips, sandwiches, bananas, and water to anyone who needed it, especially the unhoused.
Jihad said she knows of many foster youths who age out of the child-welfare system only to become homeless.
The MJFC website has a link where people can file complaints about professionals in the child-welfare system. Jihad said that once that complaint is sent, her team will begin to help advocate for that family to bring justice.