By Tiffany Csonka

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Depending upon who you ask, the success of the child welfare system in America is a mixed bag. Policymakers and caseworkers seem far removed from the youth and families they make drastic decisions on behalf of every day. Families and children intertwined in the child welfare system find themselves feeling alienated and disillusioned by the lack of racial justice, empathy, and care being shown to them on a daily basis. This polarizing difference best exemplifies the inherent flaws in this country’s child welfare system.

A significant number of families in the child welfare system are apprehensive when approaching caseworkers, Child Protective Services, and other child welfare agencies for aid and support due to lack of trust. It is important to point out the role systemic racism and implicit bias plays in families’ reluctance to interact with the child welfare system as a majority of children removed from families are Black, Latinx, Indian, and/or have some form of disability. In fact, 33% percent of children in foster care are African-American, but they make up only 15% of the child population. I’ve had my own journey with the child welfare system, and while my experiences ended with reunification, being impacted by this current system has left lasting trauma and fear. This system has a long way to go to overhaul outdated policies and practices to mend what is most certainly broken. …


By Timothy Phipps

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As someone who helps other fathers navigate the child welfare system, my ability to do my job is based on trust. Parents navigating the complexities of the child welfare system and the stigma that comes with it need to know that I have their best interests at heart. Even before COVID-19, it’s a challenging system with many twists and turns on the way to family reunification. …


By Jasper Gain

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The first time I voted was earlier this year in the 2020 primaries, and I remember being extremely nervous. There I was in my early 20s, an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and I had never voted in my life. Before then, I didn’t understand how to register or where to vote, and I was embarrassed to admit that to others when asking for help. This year, I realized how crucial it was to figure out and participate in the electoral process, as well as support others in doing the same.

As a teenager in foster care, I have seen firsthand how many foster youth are at a disadvantage without an adult to help nurture that engagement and explain the political process. Youth who are raised by politically engaged parents are more likely to be politically engaged themselves. But if youth in, and formerly in, foster care don’t vote to make their voice heard, who will? …


By Raven Sigure

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This has been a difficult year by many standards, and having navigated two hurricanes and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all while taking care of 5 children, I can say without a doubt that no one should have to face these adversities alone.

When the pandemic first hit, through my work with Casey Family Programs and the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance, I helped find new, innovative ways to support parents. I work at the local, state, and national level — engaging with families to ensure that they have the support and resources they need to persevere through difficult times. One of my favorite things about my job is getting to be with parents and families in the moment when the lightbulb goes off and they realize that they’ve made incredible progress and have the stability to support their families on their own. …


By Corey Best

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This year has been a reactivation of racial trauma and enhanced exposure to the system of inequalities for many reasons, that includes, but not limited to: a global pandemic, a volatile election, and bubbling polarization regarding tense race relations that have completely uprooted Americans’ way of life. In the midst of this structural unrest, the institution known as, the “child welfare system” continues to uphold antiquated, discriminatory policies, practices and tolerable behaviors that have destructive and harmful impacts on our Nation’s most disenfranchised families — BIPOC.

The current child welfare system continues to mishandle and abandon Black, Native and Latino youth and families at an alarmingly disproportionate rate, compared to white families. BIPOC children and youth have a higher likelihood of being neglected by caseworkers, the judicial system, and foster families, than white children, families and youth. This is a direct contradiction to the American foster system’s mission and a travesty for those who are not old enough to make decisions and advocate for themselves. As a member of the Birth Parent National Network, I have witnessed the injustice done to Black and Brown children for far too long. …


By Sarah Smalls

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When asked to describe the typical American family structure, most people would likely name two people in a binary union accompanied by a child or children. However, this rigid family structure has evolved, and the multigenerational family unit has experienced extreme growth over the last decade. The number of multigenerational households increased by 21.6 million, jumping from 42.4 million in 2000 to 64 million in 2016. Data collected shows 1 in 5 American households are classified as multigenerational. …


The Generations United annual State of Grandfamilies report

By Generations United

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Visit the Generations United website to read the full report.

Nationwide, older adults are being cautioned to keep their distance from children because of the heightened risk of infection from COVID-19. But for some families — grandfamilies — that distance is impossible.

Facing a Pandemic: Families Living Together During COVID-19 and Thriving Beyond elevates the unique needs of grandfamilies amplified by the pandemic. …


By Family Voices United

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2020 has not only been defined by a global struggle against COVID-19 and the public health implications that followed, but a national reckoning around racial injustice in the United States and the institutional racism that is pervasive in all of our systems — including child welfare.

Listen as Corey Best, Sarah Smalls, and Aliyah Zein share their lived experiences with racism and discrimination in the child welfare system. In this most recent podcast from Family Voices United, they also articulate their vision of an equitable, anti-racist system that supports and strengthens all children and families.

Corey Best is a Birth Parent National Network Member from District of Columbia.


By Family Voices United

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Now more than ever, it is critical that we are hearing from all members of our community. Untold numbers of families and individuals are struggling in silence amid the dueling crises of COVID-19 and racial injustice, and if we are to truly support them we must first make sure they have a seat at the table.

Family Voices United has developed a Constituent Engagement Assessment Tool Kit which features a self-assessment on readiness to engage constituents and best practices from FosterClub, Children’s Trust Fund Alliance, and Casey Family Programs.

Family Voices United is a joint undertaking by Casey Family Programs, FosterClub, Generations United, and The Children’s Trust Fund Alliance to elevate the voices and experiences of parents, relative caregivers and young people, transforming systems to support children and families to thrive. Learn more at https://familyvoicesunited.org/


By Family Voices United

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As the fall approaches and schools begin to reopen, we asked our constituents what support would help them and their families make that transition successfully. Read as kinship caregivers, birth parents, current and former foster youth provide insight into what strategies and supports will be most successful in reopening society while keeping our most vulnerable families physically, mentally, financially secure, and cared for.

Family Voices United is a joint undertaking by Casey Family Programs, FosterClub, Generations United, and The Children’s Trust Fund Alliance to elevate the voices and experiences of parents, relative caregivers and young people, transforming systems to support children and families to thrive. Learn more at https://familyvoicesunited.org/

About

Family Voices United

Young people + parents + relative caregivers working together to elevate voices of those with firsthand experience = change in the child welfare system

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