Author ORCID Identifier

Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Comparative American Studies


KJ Cerankowski

Committee Member(s)

Erica R. Meiners
Harrod J. Suarez


Child welfare, Family regulation, Carceral, Abolition, Police, Policing, Prison abolition, Abolitionist, Surveillance, Social services


Drawing on the wisdom of prison abolitionists past and present, as well as evidence from interviews and analysis of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) procedural documents, this work argues that Illinois’ DCFS and the child protection system more broadly are an extension of the carceral state. Both the criminal punishment system and the child protection system (henceforth referred to as the family regulation system) use a diffuse network of actors to surveil, regulate, and punish the behavior of queer subjects: impoverished people and people of color. The present-day family regulation system builds on a long history of family regulation that predates the founding of the U.S., as is seen in chattel slavery, the cultural genocide of Native Americans, neoliberal and anti-welfare policy regimes, and continues today at the U.S.-Mexico border and in the formalized family regulation system (child protective services). This work explores how to keep children safe in the age of abolition, focusing on non-carceral responses that center strong, accountable communities and divest from dependence on the state.