National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

Terminating Motherhood: How the Drug War has Stamped an Entire Class of Parents as Permanently Unfit

Bernstein, N.
Year Published: Not Dated
A Sentence of Their Own
A Sentence of Their Own

This eight-page document is an essay relating to "A Sentence of Their Own," a film by Edgar Barens. In it, the author addresses the fact that the national war on drugs has resulted in thousands of women being declared unfit as mothers because of their history of drug use. She cites a new emphasis in child welfare law on adoption and speedy termination of parental rights, mandatory sentences for drug offenders, welfare reform, and a shift in enforcement of so-called "deadbeat dad" child support laws to target single, incarcerated mothers. The author states that the result of these policies is that women who serve time for even relatively minor charges may also face forfeiture of their parental rights. The author discusses the impact of parental termination on women in various situations, as well as statistics on these families. She uses many case examples to illustrate the impact on these women and their children.

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