A yearlong investigation by NBC News and ProPublica found that America’s child protective services dragnet ensnares millions of families, disproportionately those of color living in poverty.

A team of reporters from across the country fanned out to understand how the system grew to investigate the parents of about 1 in 20 U.S. children every year.

In Pennsylvania, reporters revealed the unintended consequences of mandatory reporting, which created a vast network of professionals required to report the slightest suspicion of abuse or neglect.

In Phoenix, reporters examined a startling statistic: Black children there are more likely than not to see their parents investigated by child protective services agents.

In West Virginia, reporters investigated how quickly the state moves to permanently end parents’ rights to see their children again – often within months.

And in New York, Eli Hager of ProPublica and Hannah Rappleye of NBC News investigated caseworkers’ routine warrantless searches of parents’ homes and children’s bodies.

Behind the lens in all of those cities and states was photographer Stephanie Mei-Ling, compassionately capturing the omnipresent threat of child protective services investigations and the fallout for families. She earned the trust of Ronisha Ferguson and her sons in the Bronx to take you inside their home and share their story.

Artist Bios

  • Stephanie Mei-Ling

    Stephanie Mei-Ling is a Black-American/Taiwanese documentary photographer based between Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Through her work she explores such layered issues as the complexity of intersectional identity; elevating the narrative of invisible communities; society’s fetishization of marginalized subcultures; the universality of otherness through a global lens; and the appropriation, re-appropriation and reclaiming of cultural narratives.


  • NBC News

    NBC News

  • ProPublica


    ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force. We dig deep into important issues, shining a light on abuses of power and betrayals of public trust — and we stick with those issues as long as it takes to hold power to account. Find us at

Overpolicing Parents

 archive : 2023

Featuring: Stephanie Mei-Ling

Curated by: Zara Katz Kara Haupt Lisa Larson-Walker Jillian Kumagai

Presented by: NBC News & ProPublica
  • NBC News
  • ProPublica


ON VIEW AT: Truss Banner 32

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