Webinar: “From Complicity to Resistance: Demanding an Abolitionist and Ethical Model of Social Work in Reproductive Justice”

Watch the webinar recording on our YouTube channel.

Pregnancy Justice, JMacForFamilies, Drug Policy Alliance, The Bronx Defenders, and The University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work convened to discuss the role social workers play in the oppression, criminalization, and surveillance of pregnant and postpartum people within the criminal and family policing (commonly known as child welfare) systems.

We discussed the criminalization of pregnancy and social workers’ complicity in the above-mentioned institutions. This event will educate and provide tools for professionals and social work students alike on how to best support pregnant and postpartum people. Most importantly, an abolitionist framework grounded in support and empathy will be highlighted to illuminate ways practitioners can reimagine a social work profession that addresses reproductive justice issues through a public health lens, with a focus on family preservation, rehabilitation, empowerment, and individual dignity.


  • Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance
  • Joyce McMillan, Executive Director, JMacForFamilies
  • Caitlin Becker, Managing Director of Social Work, The Bronx Defenders
  • Dr. Alan J. Dettlaff, Dean, University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work
  • Learning objectives:

    1. Explain how the War on Drugs to current-day racist drug policies have led to the criminalization and civil sanctions of pregnant people.
    2. Describe the broad scope of the family policing system and build awareness of the profession’s history of working parallel to and within these systems.
    3. Describe the professional obligations of social workers with respect to federal reporting laws (CAPTA/CARA), NYS and NYC mandatory reporting laws, and NYS Department of Health guidance.
    4. Utilize provided resources on mandated supporting, birth rights, and abolitionist tools; to inform how to support pregnant people who use substances.
    5. Integrate a public health and abolitionist approach in daily practice, focusing on family preservation, rather than surveillance or criminalization.

    Webinar Resource Guide Download (PDF)