‘Torn Apart’: Ms. Magazine Podcast Shows How the U.S. Welfare System Destroys Black Families

“The only way to end the destruction caused by the child welfare system is to dismantle it,” said Dorothy Roberts, host of the new Ms. Studios podcast, Torn Apart.

On Monday, Nov. 13, Ms. magazine is dropping a brand-new podcast, Torn Apart: Abolishing Family Policing and Reimagining Child Welfare, which investigates how the U.S. child welfare system dismantles Black families. The podcast, based on the award-winning book Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families, and How Abolition Can Create A Safer World (2022), is hosted and co-produced by Dorothy Roberts, the author of Torn Apart, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a renowned scholar on reproductive justice.

The first episode of the four-part podcast premieres this Monday, with subsequent episodes dropping each Monday. Episodes can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts or on the brand-new Ms. Studios site at MsMagazine.com. A trailer for Torn Apart is available here.

Torn Apart opens with the harrowing story of a young Black mother from Colorado, Vanessa Peoples, who became the subject of a child welfare investigation after a stranger called the police on her because her son momentarily wandered away from her in a public park. Impacted families, community advocates and other experts lend their voices to the podcast to share how family policing harms children and families more than it helps them.

In Episode 1: “Terror” (dropping Monday), Roberts argues that the family policing system is designed to terrorize Black families. Child protective services equate poverty with neglect, using it as a justification to invade homes and threaten to take children away from majority low-income, Black families. 

“Almost all the families subjected to investigation have low incomes, or are living in poverty, and could use help meeting their material needs, but the government agents who investigate them don’t offer the resources struggling families need. Instead, they brandish a terrifying weapon against them, the threat of taking their children away,” Roberts shared on the podcast.

Family policing is also an issue of reproductive justice: State separation of families impedes the right to raise children in a safe and healthy environment.

Ms. Studios is spearheaded and led by executive producer Michele Goodwin and a team of producers. Torn Apart is the inaugural podcast in the Ms. Book Club series, a series of podcasts that Ms. Studios have planned for authors to bring their books to life and share stories with Ms. listeners. Over four episodes, Professor Roberts brings listeners front and center with the oppressive child protection system and what we need to do to reimagine child welfare.

Dorothy Roberts is a distinguished professor of Africana studies, law and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. An elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Philosophical Society, and National Academy of Medicine, she is also the author of the best-selling book on reproductive justice, Killing the Black Body. Her latest book, Torn Apart, won the 2023 American Sociological Association Distinguished Scholarly Book Award Honorable Mention, was a finalist for an LA Times Book Prize and C. Wright Mills Award, and was shortlisted for the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice.

“The only way to end the destruction caused by the child welfare system is to dismantle it, while at the same time building a more caring society that has no need to tear families apart,” said Roberts.

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U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Anoushka Chander is an intern at Ms. Studios and an Assistant Producer for the new Ms. podcast Torn Apart: Abolishing Family Policing and Reimagining Child Welfare. She is a junior at Harvard College studying Social Studies and African American studies with a focus on women’s rights, racial justice, and the law. She is a trained lobbyist for voting rights, gun violence prevention, and racial justice. An intersectional feminist, she is excited to champion the voices of youth of color in every space.