The Family Separation Crisis in the US Child Welfare System

The 147-page report, “‘If I Wasn’t Poor, I Wouldn’t Be Unfit’: The Family Separation Crisis in the US Child Welfare System,” documents how conditions of poverty, such as a family’s struggle to pay rent or maintain housing, are misconstrued as neglect, and interpreted as evidence of an inability and lack of fitness to parent. Human Rights Watch and the ACLU found significant racial and socioeconomic disparities in child welfare involvement. Black children are almost twice as likely to experience investigations as white children and more likely to be separated from their families.

A woman holds her childs face


  • December 16, 2019

    A Roadmap for Ending Exploitation, Abuse of Talibés in Senegal

    This report analyzes the Senegalese government’s policy, programming, and judicial efforts from 2017 to 2019 to address abuses against talibé children living in traditional Quranic boarding schools. It sets out a roadmap to end forced begging and abusive conditions in the Quranic schools, known as daaras.

    map content
  • February 22, 2017

    Abuses and Discrimination against Children in Institutions and Lack of Access to Quality Inclusive Education in Armenia

    This report documents how thousands of children in Armenia live in orphanages, residential special schools for children with disabilities, and other institutions. They often live there for years, separated from their families. More than 90 percent of children in residential institutions in Armenia have at least one living parent. Human Rights Watch also found that the Armenian government is not doing enough to ensure quality, inclusive education for all children. Inclusive education involves children with disabilities studying in their community schools with reasonable support for academic and other achievement.

    video content
    Cover of the Armenia Report
  • September 8, 2016

    Unaccompanied Children Detained in Greece

    This report documents arbitrary and prolonged detention of children in violation of international and Greek law. Children are held in unsanitary conditions, sometimes with unrelated adults, in police stations and detention centers where they have little access to basic care and services. The report is based on interviews with 42 children who were or had been detained, as well as visits to two police stations and two detention centers in mainland Greece.

    Cover image for the Greece Report
  • June 9, 2016

    Unaccompanied Children in Sweden

    This report documents shortcomings in the system that prevent children from receiving the care guaranteed by international standards and Swedish law. Children endure long delays in the appointment of legal guardians to safeguard the child’s best interests and wait months before meeting with a social worker or healthcare provider. In some cases, the specific needs of girls are not sufficiently identified or addressed. Amid a backlog of cases, unaccompanied children face lengthy waits in processing their asylum applications.


    photo gallery
    cover image
  • June 8, 2016

    Children with Disabilities in Serbian institutions

    This report documents the pressure families face to send children born with disabilities to large residential institutions, often far away from their homes, separating them from their families. There, children may experience neglect, inappropriate medication, and lack of privacy and have limited or no access to education. 

    photo gallery
    map content
    video content
    report cover image
  • June 26, 2015

    Abuses against Montagnards in Vietnam

    This 33-page report is based on official Vietnamese media reports and Human Rights Watch interviews with Montagnards seeking asylum abroad. It describes religious and political persecution of Montagnards, highlanders who practice De Ga and Ha Mon forms of Christianity that the government calls “evil way” religions.

    Report Cover - Persecuting "Evil Way" Religion: Abuses against Montagnards in Vietnam
  • September 15, 2014

    Violence, Neglect, and Isolation for Children with Disabilities in Russian Orphanages

    This 93-page report found that many children and young people with disabilities who have lived in state orphanages suffered serious abuse and neglect on the part of institution staff that impedes their development.

    photo gallery
  • May 1, 2014

    Children in Alternative Care in Japan

    This 119-page report is Human Rights Watch’s first major report on Japan since the launch of its Tokyo office in April 2009. The report examines the alternative care system’s organization and processes, problems found in the institutionalization of children and infants, and abuses that take place.
  • December 16, 2010

    The Treatment of Asylum Seekers and Migrants in Ukraine

    This 124-page report is based on interviews with 161 refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers in Ukraine, Slovakia, and Hungary. It shows that although some conditions in migration detention facilities have improved, Ukraine subjects many migrants to inhuman and degrading treatment and has been unable or unwilling to provide effective protection for refugees and asylum seekers.

  • May 12, 2010

    From Foster Care to Homelessness for California Youth

    This 70-page report documents the struggles of foster care youth who become homeless after turning 18, or "aging out" of the state's care, without sufficient preparation or support for adulthood. California's foster care system serves 65,000 children and youth, far more than any other single state.

  • December 16, 2008

    Treatment Access for Children Living With HIV in Kenya

    In this 100-page report, Human Rights Watch documents how the government's HIV treatment program has failed to get lifesaving drugs to the majority of children who need them. If untreated, half of all children born with HIV will die before their second birthdays.
  • August 1, 2006

    Romania’s Failure to Protect and Support Children and Youth Living with HIV

    More than 7,200 Romanian children and youth aged 15 to 19 are living with HIV. The vast majority were infected with HIV between 1986 and 1991 as a direct result of government policies that exposed them to contaminated needles and “microtransfusions” in which small children were injected with unscreened blood in the mistaken belief that this would improve their immunological status.
  • October 2, 2005

    Civilian Victims of Insurgent Groups in Iraq

    This report is the most detailed study to date of abuses by insurgent groups. It systematically presents and debunks the arguments that some insurgent groups and their supporters use to justify unlawful attacks on civilians.
  • July 15, 2005

    Stigma and Discrimination against HIV-Positive Mothers and their Children in Russia

    As Russia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic spreads, thousands of HIV-positive mothers and their children face pervasive discrimination and abuse. This 41-page report focuses on the discrimination that these women face, as do their children, many of whom are abandoned to the care of the state.
  • January 27, 2003

    The Links between Human Rights Abuses and HIV Transmission to Girls in Zambia

    Sexual abuse of girls in Zambia fuels the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the strikingly higher HIV prevalence among girls than boys, Human Rights Watch said today. Concerted national and international efforts to protect the rights of girls and young women are key to curbing the AIDS epidemic’s destructive course.