Roberts, a law professor, offers a sharp, probing look at the alarming public policy that separates children from troubled low-income black families while making efforts to keep similarly troubled white families together. On the basis of 25 years of research on federal, state, and local welfare programs nationwide, Roberts reveals a system that fails to protect the interests of black children. The statistics are startling: black children make up half the foster-care population despite the fact that they constitute less than one-fifth of the nation's children. Roberts' case studies and interviews offer testimony to the human cost of racist assumptions by the middle-class social workers and judges in assessing what is best for children separated from their families. She recalls black parents whose every action is seen through the prism of race: assertion of rights is viewed as aggressiveness and lack of cooperation, whereas bureaucratic rules are strictly enforced, frustrating efforts to regain custody. Readers concerned with social policy will find this a troubling but informative review of America's child-welfare system.