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October 2023Vol. 24, No. 8Sweet Dream, A Message From Aysha E. Schomburg

Written by Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg

I was happy to hear that the spotlight theme for this issue is “Creating a More Equitable Child Welfare System.” However, when I think critically about that theme, I would probably remove the word “more.” Let’s just create an equitable system. On another level, we could exchange the term “child welfare” for “family support” and just create an equitable family support system. It may feel like I’m going down a rabbit hole, but what if we replaced the word “system” with the word “society"? Let’s just create an equitable family support society. That would mean we should decide to be a society that literally puts the needs of its families first. We would each have a responsibility to ensure that families in our communities are supported. Corporations and entities with financial capital would graciously accept the responsibility to help provide families with concrete supports. Every person, entity, or agency would be required to ask, before taking any sort of action, “What does this family need?”

Is that utopian? Am I dreaming?

About 2 years ago, in my message titled "Equity Is a Right," I wrote about dreams—the American dream, my ancestors’ dreams, and, frankly, the deferred dream of an equitable society. Dreams are an important tool, especially with regard to achieving equity, because I’m afraid we’ll lose sight of it if we don’t dream about it. Frederick Douglass once said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” I think that’s true; I also think that if there are no dreams, there is no progress.

I want to dream, but I can’t be asleep at the wheel. So, I have to dream in a conscious state. I have to dream while awake. We all need to be awake. We have to dream with our eyes wide open about an equitable family support society. You might ask “Who’s we?” If so, I’d point you to the Kwanzaa principle of ujima—“collective work and responsibility” and “to build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.” This is the answer: we are we.

I am proud to say that we—the Federal Government—have worked tirelessly and steadfastly to realize the dream of an equitable family support society. We aren’t where we were 2 years ago. We are supporting families in new and lifechanging ways by promulgating new regulations and policies regarding child support for children impacted by foster care, supporting kin caregivers, legal representation, reimagining Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Child Care and Development Fund, and even access to diapers. We are thinking about disaster equity and equitable recovery. We are changing the way we think about federal funding opportunities, and we are letting communities design and decide how to allocate federal funds.

It is true that we are riding uphill (a steep one!), but we are still on the bike, headed to the summit where the dream of an equitable family support society is very real.