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Ten-member Special Committee to begin meeting in October, examine ways to reduce Philadelphia’s disproportionate rate of child removal

Philadelphia, PA – Philadelphia City Council today announced the formation of the Special Committee on Child Separations with the appointment of ten members. The appointed members have diverse backgrounds in law, government, public safety, and child welfare. The Committee will be co-chaired by Councilmembers David Oh (At Large) and Cindy Bass (8th District). Meetings will begin later this month.

In 2019, Councilmembers Oh and Bass called for the creation of the Special Committee through the introduction of Resolution No. 190798. The resolution cited research showing that Philadelphia has the highest rate of child removal in all major cities in the United States – three times that of New York City and four times that of Chicago. The resolution followed hearings led by Oh and Bass to better understand the scope and nature of the child separation issue in the City.

Councilmembers Oh and Bass also cite tremendous outcry from family members affected by child separations. Since 2019, over 100 parents and children have come forward with testimonies of adverse experiences of child removal by the City’s Department of Human Services (DHS).

The Special Committee will examine DHS’s child separation procedures to evaluate compliance with State Law and to ensure that such DHS procedures are adequate to prevent the illegal and improper removal of children from their families. During the City Council hearings in 2019, it also became apparent that there is a need for a transparent and accountable system for filing and evaluating complaints.  A major focus of the Committee will be to develop recommendations that seek to improve DHS practices related to child removal to prevent the unnecessary breakup of families.

The following individuals have been named by Council President Darrell L. Clarke (to serve on the Special Committee on Child Separations in Philadelphia:

  • David Oh, Philadelphia City Councilmember At-Large
  • Cindy Bass, Philadelphia City Councilmember, 8th District
  • Paul Panepinto, Former Administrative Judge, Family Court Division, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas
  • Richard Wexler, Executive Director, National Coalition for Child Protection Reform
  • Rochelle Bilal, Philadelphia Sheriff
  • Nadeem Bezar, Attorney, Kline & Specter
  • Robin Cooper, President and Principal Officer of Teamsters Local 502: Commonwealth Association of School Administrators (CASA)
  • Vickie Suarez, Board Member and PA State Coordinator for
  • Brianna Donohue, High School Student (formerly separated from her family)
  • Yolanda Bryant, CEO of non-profit organization, Families Are Important To Heal (FAITH) Advocacy Movement

In a letter to the newly-selected Committee members, Council President Clarke wrote: “Nothing is more important than the well-being and safety of our children. Your Committee is about to undertake crucial work and I thank you for your commitment.”

“Experts agree that when children are separated from their families, such separation can have irreparable effects. This committee will work to ensure that children are not improperly and illegally removed from families,” Councilman Oh said.

“Children should not be separated from their families and communities because they are poor. This committee is necessary to reduce and ultimately prevent child removals, while also working to strengthen families and the communities they live in,” said Councilwoman Bass.

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