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Social Work and Abolishing the Family Regulation System

A conversation about the role of social workers organizing for justice in the so-called child welfare system.

Joyce McMillan, MJ (Maleeka Jihad), Halimah Washington and Michelle Grier discuss social work and abolishing the family regulation system.

Social work, historically and today, has been deeply embedded in systems of carceral control. With social work's legacy of ties to policing and oppressive family regulation through the child welfare system, the social work community is actively imagining and working towards a social work rooted in abolition, turning to traditions of resistance that also characterize its history. This webinar is a third in a series on Abolitionist Social Work organized by the Network to Advance Abolitionist Social Work (NAAASW) in partnership with Haymarket Books, challenging carceral social work through the development and practice of an abolitionist social work.

The Network to Advance Abolitionist Social Work (NAAASW) is a group of social workers from different parts of the U.S. building a year-long initiative to support abolitionist work in the field of social work. The initiative includes ongoing political education, research, knowledge generation around carceral and abolition social work, developing an online hub of abolitionist social work resources, and broader organizing and advocacy efforts to build abolitionist ideas and practices into social work.


Halimah Washington is a Black mama and social justice activist/advocate from New York City. Halimah has over 15 years of experience in human services and has made it her mission to be a social change agent. She has been action oriented, lobbying in Albany as an activist and advocate fighting for criminal justice reform, reproductive justice, education reform, fair and affordable housing and HIV/AIDS-related issues. She continues her activism efforts with the #endASFA, #AbolishACS and #DefundACS campaigns and her advocacy efforts through work as a Birth Justice Defender. Halimah is a Columbia University Beyond the Bars Fellow and NYC Department of Health Birth Justice Defender.

Joyce McMillan is a thought leader, advocate, activist, community organizer, and educator. Her mission is to remove systemic barriers in communities of color by bringing awareness to the racial disparities in systems where people of color are disproportionately affected. Joyce believes before change occurs the conversation about systemic oppression that creates poverty, and feeds people of color into systems must happen on all levels consistently. She completed a restorative certificate program at the New School and says change will not happen independently of healing. Her ultimate goal is to abolish systems of harm while creating concrete community resources. Joyce is the founder and Executive Director of JMacForFamilies a 501 3 c she founded to support families. Prior, she was the Program Director at Child Welfare Organizing Project (CWOP) where she created a community space, to educate the community about restorative practices to empower, affirm, transform and heal communities of color that have been traumatized by systemic injustices. Joyce is an active member of The West Harlem Democrats, A board member at Women’s Prison Association (WPA), and Movement for Family Power, A member of her local Community Association, a NYC County Committee Member, a Supreme Court Judicial Delegate and an Advisory Committee member at The Center for New York City Affairs (CNYCA) at The New School, where she also has a visiting fellowship. As a visiting fellow Joyce explores ways to strengthen the parent voice in child welfare and has led a series of public events (speaker series) where panelists discussed not just the problems but suggested solutions. In addition Joyce completed a Fellowship with Law4Black Lives where she explored what it means to divest in systems while investing in communities. Joyce is a former fellow with The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls where she reimagined communities without system harm. Joyce is also the Founder of Parent Legislative Action Network (PLAN) a coalition that won monumental change to New York's State Central Registry. Joyce is always willing to be a supporter of and a voice for systemic change by testifying for City Council at City Hall, lecturing and panel discussions at Columbia University, NYU, Hunter College, Montclair University CUNY Law School, Cornell University, Harlem Hospital, New York City affairs at the New School and many other institutions. In addition, she has also appeared in various media interviews with Al Jeezera, NYTimes, ABC Channel 7, Politico, ICPH (Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness), short stories and documentaries etc.

MJ (Maleeka Jihad) is the Director of the MJ Consulting Firm, an Agency focused on dismantling systemic racism in the child welfare system through education, advocacy and policy reform. She is the CEO and Co-creator of EC3 (Emic Cultural Consultants Collective), where she specializes in organizational and individual transformational work with structural racism. As an adjunct faculty member at the Graduate School of Social Work with the University of Denver, she teaches race, privilege, social justice and law courses. Alongside her students, MJ is continuing her education as an International Psychology PhD Student at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Michelle Grier (she/her) is a social justice worker and Black feminist committed to liberatory healing practices. She is a social worker, with over 10 years of experience, learning from and providing support to young people in schools and nonprofits. Her current commitments are focused on amplifying the mandates and messages of BIPOC youth survivors of racial and gender-based violence. She is a member of NAASW and grateful for this space that fosters conversations about abolition and social work.