December/January 2020Vol. 20, No. 10Spotlight on Knowing the Difference Between Poverty and Neglect
This issue of CBX highlights the importance of differentiating between poverty as a cause of neglect and poverty as being neglect and how primary prevention and family-strengthening strategies are key to keeping families together. Read a message from Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau, and David Kelly, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, that stresses the need to commit to a system that takes on poverty-related neglect in humane and effective ways. The issue also includes a variety of resources and publications for professionals and families related to the intersection of poverty and child neglect.
- A Wheel to Crisis
A Wheel to Crisis
Written by Bobbi Taylor, foster care alumni, advocate
I aged out of foster care at 19 years old. Like many young adults, I was ready for freedom, or so I thought. Life still had a lot to teach me about becoming a responsible young adult. During that time, I often thought of the advice my sister gave me. She tried to share her own insight with me so I would not have to learn the hard way. Unfortunately, that advice went in one ear and out the other. When I started listening to her, I got on track to be successful. I had a job, I was enrolled in college, and had just moved into my own apartment. Yet, the one thing she had no advice for was how to take care of a baby, and that is exactly what life gave me after just a year of being on my own.
After my son's arrival, our budget was tight. Another challenge was trying to balance work, school, and motherhood. I was trying so hard to make ends meet and to provide a good life for my son, but it just wasn't enough. More often than not, I would come up short one way or another. I felt so defeated, like I was an inadequate mother.
Many nights, I would watch my son sleep and cry silently next to him, admiring his peaceful sleep and reflecting on his unconditional love for me. The one thing I knew was that he was the single most important person in the world to me, and I loved him unconditionally as well. I was doing it for him, and I'd pick up where I left off the next day. As sure as I was that things could only get better, life hit me again.
There were a few things that factored into my wheel-to-crisis situation. I had not built up my credit, which created barriers. I eventually had a $350-a-month car payment for an unreliable car from a "buy-here-pay-now" dealership. Earlier that year, we relocated for my son's safety and well-being and settled for the only place that didn't run a credit score. By winter, I learned that our new home was poorly insulated. In addition, our triplex was cross-wired with our neighbor, whose home was larger. This increased our energy bill to more than what I had budgeted for.
By the holidays, I knew I wouldn't have money to spare for my son's first Christmas, which broke my heart. The car needed a new tire, and I didn't even have spare money for that. I needed to make a decision on whether to fix the car or try alternative transportation methods. Ultimately, I made the decision to fix the car to make sure we had reliable transportation in case of an emergency. I was short on rent but hoped to make it up at work. Then, I was faced with another challenge.
The following week—1 week until our rent was due—we woke up to a cold house and found our electricity had been shut off. I had been making small payments hoping it would suffice. It didn't, and the bill was now devastatingly high. Not only did I have to pay the entire balance of my account, but I also had to pay a $250 deposit to turn it back on. If that wasn't bad enough, the next bill included an additional reconnection fee. This destroyed me. My pride as a mother was hurt. I had failed to provide for my son's basic needs. I felt like I failed as a mother, despite trying so hard. Although it cost the same as our rent, I decided to make the payment to turn on our electricity.
That decision jeopardized our housing situation. The rental company sent letters and called me multiple times a day. I was scared to tell them the truth about the rent, but I knew avoiding them would make the situation worse. They told me we were close to getting evicted. I couldn't hold back the tears as I explained to them what was going on. They allowed me to make payments on the rent until I got caught up. The weight on my shoulders was lifted. I knew I had a chance to save everything I worked so hard for. Eventually, I paid everything off and moved to a more stable home with affordable utilities.
Through this whole experience, there was never a time that my love for my son waivered. If anything, it's that love that kept me going. Every decision I made was for his well-being, and ultimately I have my son to thank for keeping me moving forward. It wasn't a lack of trying that put us in this situation. It was life teaching the lessons that eventually every young adult will learn. However, there was a lack of guidance and support through this learning process. I had to learn how to be a new mom and balance a budget to meet the needs of a baby on my own. Being connected to community resources prior to aging out of care would have made a significant difference in my life. I was a young mom, in poverty, with no supports, and the only thing to drive me through my wheel to crisis was the love and commitment I had to being the best mother to my son.
Today, we are in a different place, and I embrace the life lessons that come our way. I am better at decision-making and prioritizing what is necessary and what we can live without. I regret nothing because it has made me a better mother and built my resilience. The best lesson I learned through this was regardless of how rough and dark things got, my son was happy as long he was with me. He didn't care about toys for Christmas; he would rather play with me as I cooked us dinner. He wasn't worried about how little money we had at the time; he wanted to play peek-a-boo with paper as I tried to finish my assignments for the next day. I learned that regardless of how bad things seemed, my love for my son would never change. As long as I continued to be the best mother I could be, things would turn out okay. The crisis never defined how much I love my son. My love for him helped conquer every obstacle that would lead us to a better place.
- How to Help Agencies Stop Confusing Poverty With Neglect
How to Help Agencies Stop Confusing Poverty With Neglect
Written by Jey Rajaraman, chief counsel, Legal Services of New Jersey, Edison, NJ
In New Jersey, like many places throughout the United States, most agency-involved interventions and removals arise from poverty, particularly the inability to access stable housing. Children are routinely removed from their homes because their parents struggle to pay the rent. Greater support from child welfare agencies for struggling families could significantly decrease the number of family separations. Federal and state laws do not permit child removals or separation based on impoverished living conditions. Under New Jersey law, before separating a family or otherwise exercising the state's parens patriae rights, child welfare agencies must do everything possible to keep the family together.
To reduce the prevalence of family separations, child welfare agencies should better understand and address the plight of impoverished families. A lack of housing, or housing instability, does not render a parent incapable of parenting his or her children. For example, while living in a motel or shelter or remaining in an apartment pending eviction is not ideal for children, such conditions do not necessarily mean the children are unsafe or at risk of harm. In most cases, the circumstances, conditions, and factors that lead to a family being in poverty are beyond the family's control and often stem from multigenerational poverty and racism.
Under both federal and state law, courts must first focus on whether the agency's removal was justified. Removal should only occur when there is actual harm to a child or when immediate removal is necessary to avoid imminent danger to the child's life, safety, or health. Courts also must ensure the agency complied with the reasonable efforts requirements under state and federal laws. In New Jersey, agencies typically must demonstrate they have "made every reasonable effort, including the provision or arrangement of financial or other assistance and services as necessary, to enable the child to remain in his home." When a court grants a removal application based on a lack of housing or other manifestations of poverty, the holding essentially equates a parent's state of poverty with neglect. This both misapplies legal requirements and causes unjustified and tragic trauma.
For the agency to meaningfully address poverty issues and the needs of struggling families, it must understand the ramifications for families living in poverty. For instance, it is unrealistic to ask a family to relocate to an apartment during a pending eviction when that family has poor credit or a criminal history, which could result in application denials. The agency should be aware of the legal and economic barriers to suitable and affordable housing and assist families in responding to those barriers, including helping them seek legal representation or advocacy.
Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ) recently initiated a pilot program to help facilitate that process. In the last year, LSNJ started to work directly with a county-level child welfare agency by accepting direct referrals from the agency so that LSNJ can quickly identify and assist with legal issues. These cases may involve issues such as pending evictions, unpaid child support, domestic violence, welfare denials, and barriers to accessing medical care and education. For each of these referrals, LSNJ also works with the agency to meet the needs of the family, which assists in preventing the loss of housing and helps agency staff recognize that unstable housing is not neglect and address the family's needs with poverty-informed services.
Agencies should establish internal mechanisms and protocols to meet families' needs through financial, transportation, and other assistance as well as tailored case planning. Child welfare agencies should be encouraged to coordinate with local legal services agencies, such as LSNJ, to identify legal needs and barriers and connect these families with necessary legal representation.
- Reckoning With History and Building a New Future: Reflections on Race, Immigration and Poverty in Ch
Reckoning With History and Building a New Future: Reflections on Race, Immigration and Poverty in Ch
Written by Kaylene Quinones, M.S.W., cofounder, The Bravehearts, and coordinator, BraveLife Intervention at The Children's Village;
David Collins, L.S.M.W., chief program officer, The Children's Village; and Jeremy Christopher Kohomban, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer, The Children's Village
In the May 2019 CBX spotlight, Julia Jean-Francois, codirector, Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, New York, noted that "children who enter the foster care system should not undergo the secondary trauma that results from being uprooted from their homes, neighborhoods, schools, play spaces and friends, pediatricians, and all that is familiar and stabilizing about their lives."
We agree. The pioneering work of the Center for Family Life inspired many and gave birth to the prevention and primary prevention concepts. Building on the example of the Center for Family Life, The Children's Village spent the last 15 years rethinking our role in family separation and the vilification of poor communities.
The history of family separation in the United States is inextricably linked to race, immigration, and poverty. The Children's Village has been part of that history since it was founded as the New York Juvenile Asylum in 1851 to serve children lawfully removed from community and family. This represented the first documented instance of mandated residential care for children. From 1854 to 1923, The Children's Village, working with two other prominent charities, established and operated the Orphan Train, a movement that transported over 200,000 children from eastern cities to the Midwest, where they were indentured to work and live among rural families. The Children's Village model of child removal and residential care also influenced the American Indian boarding schools of the late 19th century.
In the second half of the 20th century, enduring perceptions of poor families as inept, morally deficient, and dangerous to their own children went on to drive the growth of public child welfare and foster care systems. Research on those systems consistently points to poverty as correlated to neglect and abuse. However, in 2017, almost 75 percent of child maltreatment reports were for neglect, and the majority of children who come into foster care do so solely on that basis. We must understand, then, that while neglect and maltreatment are real phenomena that can and do harm vulnerable children, their definition is socially constructed based on a legacy of systemic racism and disproportionately enforced in poor and marginalized communities. Compounding the problem, public child welfare systems have historically been willing to invest almost exclusively in child removal, often spending far more to needlessly separate families than it would cost to safely support the child in the family home. Based on this history, we know that increased surveillance, disinvestment, and exclusion are not the solution.
While the long-term solution to poverty is beyond the scope of any one organization, it is clear to us that we have an important role to play in creating a new history and a new relationship between The Children's Village and the communities we serve. Our focus today is to give children those things that we want for ourselves and work hard to provide for our own children and those we love. This is called giving children things that are permanent.
All children need at least one adult who loves them implicitly and unconditionally. Government and charities can never take the place of family and should never claim that they can. For most children involved with child protective services, that person is one or both of their parents or another person in their family of origin, and it is our job to support and strengthen that bond, not tear it apart. We know that poor families love their children. When we needlessly separate children from families, we cause lifelong hurt to the family and the child. When we remove children from their communities, we are also perpetuating the historical narrative that describes poor communities as incapable of caring for their own.
We strive to create safe and beautiful places and spaces. Most families touched by the child welfare system live in neighborhoods characterized by years of disinvestment, low-quality infrastructure, a lack of safe public spaces, and failing schools. In addition, most government and charitable services that cater to the poor also look and feel poor, with beauty and customer service relegated to a distant second or third priority. We have worked with community partners to develop beautiful high-quality, permanently affordable housing in Harlem, including two floors of apartments reserved for youth leaving the foster care system. We know that affordability and beauty can be achieved and should not be denied.
We work to create and support economic mobility. Affordable housing is one key ingredient; youth and families who have a safe and stable living arrangement are more likely to make strides in other areas of their lives. We also provide education and employment programming in our community offices, including free college courses in partnership with Bard College, in addition to job readiness, afterschool, family planning, and mentoring programs for teens.
We value and include people with lived experience in our organization. This means providing meaningful full-time employment and leadership opportunities, not just a seat at the table. It also means that we must be open and attentive to critiques of our practices and structures, engage productively with the tension that comes from empowering different perspectives, and recognize the unique abilities of credible messengers to engage clients, develop trust, and support lasting change. The Children's Village was one of the first organizations to hire full-time parent advocates within our foster care program in 2005. We are proud to count graduates of the Institute for Transformative Mentoring among our staff mentors and to partner with the Bravehearts, an authentically youth-led organization that advocates for young people touched by foster care and juvenile justice.
We are present in the communities we serve. Historically, though most children in our care came from New York City, all our activities were concentrated on our residential campus in suburban Westchester. That distance only reinforced negative stereotypes about the families and communities that our children call home. We cannot support and empower families if we are afraid to visit them in their homes or walk down their block. Today, we have program offices in the Bronx, Harlem, and Queens, in addition to a variety of community centers, school-based initiatives, and voluntary home-based services for families that go beyond child welfare. The closer we get to these communities and people, the less dangerous and damaged they seem and the more often we see the love and tenderness they have for each other and their children.
It takes time, commitment, leadership, and courage to understand and implement these principles. Doing so also requires us to renounce our posture of expertise; listen to youth, families, and advocates; constantly update our thinking; and partner with the public sector to take risks. Change is not a linear process; at times we stumble, fall back on old thinking, or miss the mark. Nevertheless, we know first-hand that change is possible and that reckoning clearly with the past is the only way to move forward. Doing so also requires us to think critically about how concepts of neglect and maltreatment are socially constructed and differentially enforced and move away from a lens of deficit and dysfunction. Only then can we start to lift up the inherent dignity and value in every person, family, and community and support them in their desire to care for one another and build a better future.
- The Lessons of Mary Ellen Wilson: Invest in Prevention
The Lessons of Mary Ellen Wilson: Invest in Prevention
Written by Katie Albright, Safe & Sound, San Francisco
What would our child welfare system look like today if we had supported Mary Ellen Wilson's parents at the time when they so desperately needed help, when they were living in poverty and caring for their infant daughter in the late 1800s?
You may have heard of Mary Ellen Wilson. Her court case became the first reported child maltreatment case in our country. In April 1874, she was removed from an adoptive home after a neighbor, a home visiting nurse, and a community organization reported her severe abuse and neglect to the New York State Supreme Court. This first-reported case of maltreatment ultimately led to the creation of the child welfare and foster care system that we know of today.
While history remembers Mary Ellen Wilson's tragic circumstances, the story of her biological parents Frances and Thomas Wilson is nearly forgotten. By all accounts, they were well-meaning parents, but their own life circumstances prevented them from caring for their daughter. Thomas was a soldier in the Civil War. When he died fighting, Frances, now a widower, took a job doing laundry and could no longer stay at home to care for her infant daughter. Frances boarded Mary Ellen, which was common practice at the time. But when Frances' financial situation worsened, she missed visitation dates with her daughter and could not make child care payments, so the boarding house put Mary Ellen up for adoption. It was the abuse in this adoptive home that led to the court case.
This may be an interesting history. But why am I writing about the Wilson family?
My hope is to prompt consideration about how much better Mary Ellen's childhood outcomes might have been if we—as a community and as a country—had focused on supporting her parents, Frances and Thomas, in the first place, at the time when they deeply needed help. Instead of placing Mary Ellen out of her home, what if the community had a network of supports where Frances could have reached out for help when Thomas was at war? What if the family had access to food, housing, and child care? What if counseling services were available to help Frances cope with her tragedy—the loss of her husband and need to take care of her infant daughter on her own? What if support groups had been available to create a community so that Frances knew she wasn't alone? Ultimately, what if we had invested in prevention?
Today, far too many families in our country make the unfathomable choice between eating and paying rent. Parents go hungry so that their kids can have food. Families living in poverty are more likely to be isolated and work multiple jobs to gain needed concrete supports like food, clothing, housing, health care, and child care. The overwhelming majority of parents—all parents, no matter their economic status—want the very best for their children and work each day to keep them safe, healthy, and thriving. However, research shows a profound link between poverty and neglect, with individual poverty often a risk factor for neglect. Because of systemic racism, poverty and maltreatment disproportionately impact communities of color.
With the passage and implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act, we have an opportunity to invest in prevention and community-based solutions to support families. In so doing, we have an opportunity to transform our child welfare system, which focuses on protecting children after harm occurs, into a family well-being system, which seeks to strengthen families, alleviate poverty, and prevent neglect before it happens.
Family Resource Centers (FRCs) provide critical community-based solutions and infrastructure toward these goals. Approximately 3,000 FRCs offer services that strengthen families and prevent maltreatment in 29 urban, rural, and tribal jurisdictions throughout the United States. FRCs partner with parents and caregivers to build protective factors, which research shows prevent child abuse and neglect. The Center for the Study of Social Policy enumerates five key protective factors that strengthen families:
- Parental resilience: Managing stress and functioning well when faced with challenges, adversity, and trauma
- Social connections: Positive relationships that provide emotional, informational, instrumental, and spiritual support
- Knowledge of parenting and child development: Understanding child development and parenting strategies that support physical, cognitive, language, social, and emotional development
- Concrete support in times of need: Access to concrete support and services that address a family's needs and help minimize stress caused by challenges
- Social and emotional competence of children: Family and child interactions that help children develop the ability to communicate clearly, recognize and regulate their emotions, and establish and maintain relationships
Safe & Sound is just one of 26 FRCs in San Francisco that supports the diversity of families in our community. Similar to other FRCs, we provide a range of prevention services, giving parents and caregivers the opportunity to voluntarily seek help in the following ways:
- Drop in to talk with a counselor about a parenting challenge or a family crisis
- Access resources to find housing or a job
- Attend a support group or workshop
- Learn about skills for raising families, including evidenced-based parenting classes
- Take a break in the common day area while their kids are in the playroom
- Pick up food, clothing, diapers, and shampoo
- Join together for a family meal, event, or activity
- Call a phone line for help 24/7/365 days a year
All of these are supports that would have helped to keep Mary Ellen with her own family—and would help millions of parents and children living in poverty today.
Scholars have pointed to community-based programs as important solutions to helping families out of poverty and reducing neglect. Growing evidence shows that FRCs help parents mitigate risk factors and build protective factors that prevent childhood neglect. Investing in FRCs allow communities to increase access to jobs, housing, health care, child care, and other concrete supports for families; expand social connections and decrease isolation; increase family resilience; and, ultimately, prevent neglect for all children.
Let's learn the lesson of Mary Ellen Wilson and invest in prevention.
To learn more about FRCs, visit the National Family Support Network at https://www.nationalfamilysupportnetwork.org/family-support-programs
and Safe & Sound at https://safeandsound.org/.
- It's Time to Stop Confusing Poverty With Neglect
It's Time to Stop Confusing Poverty With Neglect
Written by Jerry Milner and David Kelly
As a field, we are fond of saying that child abuse and neglect cross all economic strata, but we know that it is not reported or handled equally or proportionally across all strata, as reflected by the children and families involved in the child welfare system. There is also a common refrain among many in the field that we should create a system that is "good enough for our own children." While the sentiment is earnest, we know that for most of us, the system will never be truly good enough for the children in our own lives. The truth is, for most people of certain socioeconomic standing and race, removal of a child to foster care is not a reality they will ever face—whether warranted or not. Moreover, to make that statement and mean it requires a fierce urgency in making the changes necessary to bring such a system to life. Should the improbable happen and a child in one of our lives require placement in the child welfare system, incremental improvement would never be satisfactory. It would be unacceptable.
Yet, as a field, we seem quite comfortable with very small, incremental improvements and minor tweaks to the way we operate—tweaks that often benefit the operators more than those living the experience; tweaks that may not result in noticeable improvements in the way children, youth, and parents experience the system at all; and tweaks that are not likely to mitigate the need to enter the system. We have to be honest in examining why we allow this to be so.
We have to be honest that a large part of the problem is the way we see and judge families that make contact with the system. We see poor and vulnerable families as the "other."
The role that poverty plays in child welfare decision-making is a topic that has yet to be meaningfully confronted and addressed. Poverty is a risk factor for neglect, but poverty does not equate to neglect. The presence of poverty alone does not mean a child is unsafe, unloved, or that a parent lacks the capacity to care for his or her child. Poverty can make it more challenging for parents to meet certain of their children's needs. We must be resoundingly clear that a child should never be removed from his or her family due to poverty alone.
We must also be very clear that poverty is disproportionately present in communities of color and that this fact carries direct implications for child welfare.
Overwhelmingly, the faces of the children, youth, and parents involved in child welfare are black and brown or very poor and white—people who data tell us are more often economically vulnerable or disadvantaged. Most of the reasons for child welfare involvement fall into what we call "neglect" rather than physical abuse or exploitation. Our most recent child maltreatment data tell us that 60 percent of victims have a finding of neglect only. There are different types and definitions of neglect around the country. Neglect can take the form of failing to attend school and not keeping up with necessary medical care. It can also take the form of not meeting the emotional needs of a child. More times than not, poverty and struggles to meet the basic, concrete needs of a family are a part of the equation in all types of neglect. Substance use and or mental health challenges can exacerbate or perpetuate these challenges, but these conditions are not always present.
Rather than seeing these root causes with clear eyes, calling them out, and taking them on with intention, we remain stuck as a system and society that focuses on the harmful aftereffects, often casting blame on vulnerable families for their very vulnerability. Rather than trying to prevent poverty and the many challenges associated with poverty, such as social isolation and lack of meaningful opportunities and support, we search for increasingly sophisticated evidence-based interventions to treat the trauma or "fix" the symptoms arising from a family's inability to meet their children's fundamental needs.
We believe this must change.
For the past 2 and a half years, we have listened carefully to the stories of parents struggling to provide for their children while trying to keep the threat of child removal at arm's length. Sometimes they are successful, and sometimes they are not. We have also visited programs and learned of efforts across the country that are committed to making sure families have the help and support they need, before, during, and after the crisis arises—the most impactful of which focus on preventing the crisis from arising in the first place.
Many of the stories and programs speak directly to or reside at the intersection of poverty and neglect. The consistency with which poverty has been a leading part of the story parents tell is eye opening but sadly not surprising. The following are some of those stories:
A young mother had to make a difficult decision on whether to use money for a flat tire she got on her way to work soon before her rent was due, knowing that she would not be able to pay for both. She needed the tire to drive to work to earn money for rent and to meet her child's needs.
Young parents who are foster care alumni incurred a burdensome debt while trying to earn an education critical to landing good jobs, while holding down very low-paying jobs and meeting the basic needs of their children.
Children were removed from their parents due to chronic homelessness or housing instability.
The children of a young, single mother were removed solely due to an eviction. She had hoped that the system would rally to help her find decent, safe housing only to be told "you must comply with this or that in your case plan in order to regain custody."
Countless parents knew they needed help but did not have the means to obtain it on their own and were afraid to ask for it for fear of removal.
Parents were required to pay for certain services or drug testing they could not afford and had that inability to pay used against them as failure to comply with a case plan, preventing them from regaining custody of their children.
Each of these examples brings the challenges of poverty and lack of resources or support into acute focus. Absent such challenges and scarcities, odds are less that the families in the examples would make contact with the child welfare system. On the other hand, we have also seen exceptional efforts to address basic, poverty-related issues before and after child welfare intervention becomes necessary. We have seen common-sense, kind, and effective efforts to assist families to overcome poverty related challenges and stay together. The following are a few examples:
A community adoption agency took on the prevention mantle by rallying around a family at risk of losing its children by lining up safe child care, bringing meals to the family, and securing rent to head off an impending eviction.
Several community-led organizations provided basic, concrete supports to families in need before those needs escalate to hotline reports (e.g., food, rent assistance, legal aid, and safe places with people that listen).
A prosperity project designed to support economic mobility of parents provided job training and support, educational opportunities, and child care.
A tribal Early Head Start and child care program provided children with a safe, educational environment while their parents learned about child development, received job training, and sometimes even became employed as teachers and aids within the program.
A judge ordered a child welfare agency to pay for a necessary repair to a septic tank that would otherwise leave a home uninhabitable and a family separated.
A parent attorney successfully argued that supplemental security income death and disability payments be made to a mother positioning herself for reunification instead of the child welfare agency so that she would not lose her apartment.
Several subsidized housing programs operated within the child welfare system by both public and private agencies provided stable housing and support for youth emancipating from foster care to help prevent them from becoming homeless, allowing them to save money and to get an education. Some programs also provided housing to parents that have been or are working to reunify with their children or who are at risk of losing their children.
These are two very different sets of examples and two very different types of stories that should be instructive to all of us on what is necessary to reimagine a child welfare system focused on strengthening the capacities of parents to keep their children safely at home. By investing heavily in the second set of examples, we can profoundly reduce the incidence, number, and severity of the first set of examples.
We also must be clear about the likelihood that parents who are dealing with housing emergencies or food scarcity will be able to benefit from evidence-based services that require regular attendance or completion of a predetermined dose or number of sessions. Will the parenting classes or therapy, even if well-supported by the evidence, take or be sustainable when a parent does not have a place to live, a steady income, or a way to feed their children?
Committing to a system that takes on poverty-related neglect in humane and effective ways requires active partnering with public and private entities that can, collectively, create the conditions where families can thrive and children are free from harm. It requires partnership with communities that know and understand the needs of their families and children. And, it requires a willingness to rally around families that are vulnerable and struggling with poverty, rather than judging them, labeling that vulnerability as neglect, and pathologizing them.
If we truly care about children and families, it's time to stop confusing poverty with neglect and devote ourselves to doing something about it.
- Redefining Poverty in Tribal Communities
Redefining Poverty in Tribal Communities
Written by LeeAnn Garrick, Cook Inlet Council (CITC) chief of operations; Cristy Willer, CITC senior director of Strategic Initiatives; and Deborah Northburg, senior director of Child & Family Services, Anchorage, AK
Families who are surviving or in crisis are often vulnerable to child welfare involvement. Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC), as a multiservice tribal organization, designs opportunities for families—many of whom are in crisis—to move from surviving to thriving. In Alaska, CITC defines "thriveability" as being "connected with one's own unique capabilities and the bounty of potential they provide." We support our program participants in the quest to thrive not just survive. Our participants define what thriving means to them by looking at their family's experience through the lens of five factors—financial stability, healthy lifestyles, relationships, education and training, and spiritual and cultural wellness. Through this process, participants design their own definition of success that leads to a plan of action in each and all of these domains.
The application of thriveability moves us to explore new ways to describe this success. We do not use terms like poverty to define financial status but rather the lack of social capital of family relationships, community connections, and tribal traditions. We value and use the understanding of social capital to create programs aimed at enhancing these critical relationships. We use strategies such as peer-to-peer support to guide program participants, providing a deep relationship in our program models and closing the gap of social isolation. This isolation creates a vulnerability that challenges our people and often breaks down the system by which families support each other in times of need. When we talk about education and training programming, we are striving to do more using what is known and what anchors our traditions, allowing us to innovate new models of education from old ways of knowing. Another way we infuse meaningful culture is to embrace our shared core values of interdependence, resilience, accountability, respect, and humor. These core values define and sustain our culture.
Years ago, we began trying to understand our Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF) program participants by asking them about their experiences and focusing on what moves families forward. In this exploration, we discovered that we needed to consider the whole family's needs not just individual issues. This means using multigenerational mobility strategies like employment, education, and radical learning models to support families in all stages of their lives. Layered over these models are approaches that include meeting people where they are and understanding past experiences, whether historical or traumatic, and encouraging participants to move forward.
The five factors model informs how CITC programs overlap and intersect to respond best to participant needs and experiences. For example, our Employment and Training Services Department's (ETSD's) management of all TTANF funds and state child care assistance funds for income-eligible Alaska native and American Indian families in the region, as well as the existence of several smaller supportive programs, connects Child and Families Services and ETSD. CITC's multitude of programs provide direct services to native youth, including employment and life-skills development through afterschool tutoring; camps for building science, technology, engineering, and math skills; supported work experience; suicide prevention framework-funded supports in the community; and building healthy relationship skills, provide a potentially useful service net for youth in state custody. The CITC Child and Family Services Department's extensive experience providing direct services to families in or on the verge of crisis is without a doubt the factor that provides some of the most significant support.
Through all these approaches, we work in partnership with the families we serve—some in crisis and some not—to move from surviving to thriving. We encourage families to join us in this journey so they may better understand what builds their safety net of relationships and support, which not only insulates them from crisis but also builds a protective community.
Spotlight on Incorporating Youth Engagement and Lived Experience Into Child Welfare Practice
Spotlight on the Title IV-E Prevention Program and the Family First Prevention Services Act
News From the Children's Bureau
We highlight a Digital Dialog that discusses neglect as the intersection of parental neglect of children, societal neglect of families, community neglect of families, and societal neglect of community and how to keep vulnerable families together. The latest additions to the CB website are also included.
- Digital Dialog on Building Healthy Communities to Promote Child and Family Well-Being
Digital Dialog on Building Healthy Communities to Promote Child and Family Well-Being
A Digital Dialog from CANTASD (the Child Abuse and Neglect Technical Assistance and Strategic Dissemination Center), a service of the Children's Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, features presenters from the National Alliance of Children's Trust and Prevention Funds (the Alliance) who discuss the intersection of poverty and neglect. The Alliance is a membership organization that focuses on prevention by offering trainings, publications, and other supports to ensure broad audiences understand their roles in strengthening families and communities and preventing child abuse and neglect.
This Digital Dialog discusses the conceptualization of neglect as the intersection of parental neglect of children, societal neglect of families, community neglect of families, and societal neglect of community. Based on this, the Alliance created a theory of change and call to action that acknowledges the existence of child neglect, increases awareness of neglect, recognizes the consequences of inaction, embraces strategies that reduce the incidence and prevalence of neglect, intervenes and treats child neglect, and strengthens families.
The Alliance also identified the following risk factors that can lead to neglect:
- History of trauma
- Poverty and insufficient resources
- Maternal depression/mental health issues
- Substance use
- Devaluing and minimizing challenges associated with raising children
While poverty and insufficient resources are often associated with neglect, most families living in poverty do not neglect their children. The Alliance determined the following to be effective ways to keep families living in poverty from being separated:
- Provide families with a safety net to support them when they fall on hard times
- Raise political awareness about poverty
- Reframe issues and narratives in ways that reduce or eliminate polarization of the reactions to social problems
- Move the discussion from incriminating parents to examining the context in which they are trying to raise their children safely
To listen to the Digital Dialog titled, "Building Healthy Communities to Promote Child and Family Well-Being," visit https://cantasd.acf.hhs.gov/explore-topics/neglect/building-healthy-communities/.
- Economic Mobility Toolkit
Economic Mobility Toolkit
Families in poverty have an increased chance of involvement with child welfare. Poverty during early childhood is related to lower academic achievement, lower rates of adult employment, and less long-term earning potential. Economic mobility and stability are important aspects of achieving family well-being and are related to improved child behaviors and mental health.
The National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start released a toolkit intended for Head Start and Early Head Start program directors, managers, or direct-services staff.
The toolkit aims to teach Head Start and Early Head Start staff how to partner with families on their goals for financial capability, education, and employment; set program goals, develop strategies, and build staff capacity to support the economic mobility of families; and learn more about family economic mobility topics and resources.
The toolkit is divided into the following parts:
- Part 1: Building Family Economic Mobility: Program Planning and Professional Development Tool—This tool can be used for program planning and professional development at any time during the 5-year project period.
- Part 2: Building Foundations for Economic Mobility: Key Topics—This section explores eight key topics related to economic mobility. Each topic provides information and guides participants through action steps on how to start or expand economic mobility work in their program.
Also included are appendices and additional resources.
Economic Mobility Toolkit for Head Start and Early Head Start, is available at https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/bfem-toolkit-hs-ehs.pdf.
- CB Website Updates
CB Website Updates
The Children's Bureau website hosts information on child welfare programs, funding, monitoring, training and technical assistance, laws, statistics, research, federal reporting, and much more.
Recent additions to the site include the following:
- Title IV-E Foster Care Eligibility Reviews 2020 Schedule: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/title-iv-e-2020-review-schedule
- Michigan Subsequent Primary Title IV-E Foster Care Eligibility Review (2019): https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/michigan-subsequent-title-iv-e-2019
- Fiscal Year 2019 Children's Bureau Discretionary Grant Awards: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/discretionary-grant-awards-2019
- Increasing the Impact of Community Organizations [Podcast]: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/child-welfare-podcast-community-organizations
- Diligent Recruitment of Families for Children in the Foster Care System: Challenges and Recommendations for Policy and Practice: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/diligent-recruitment-challenges-and-recommendations
- The AFCARS Report: Preliminary FY 2018 Estimates as of August 22, 2019 - No. 26: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/afcars-report-26
Visit the Children's Bureau website often to see what's new.
Child Welfare Research
Read about a study that discusses whether and how poverty is perceived by child welfare workers to be a contributing factor to child welfare involvement in cases of substantiated child neglect and an article about how some child welfare systems are experimenting with strategies to address risks associated with poverty.
- Promising Policies and Practices to Reduce Role of Poverty in Child Neglect Cases
Promising Policies and Practices to Reduce Role of Poverty in Child Neglect Cases
An article looking at poverty as a major risk factor for child neglect—which accounts for almost three-quarters of all child welfare cases—points to promising policies and practices that can strengthen and support families through services and interventions that provide basic needs. The authors suggest that the role of poverty is too often overlooked in cases of child neglect and that providing families with supportive services might cut down on the number of child welfare cases. They explain that because poverty is defined as inadequate food, shelter, and clothing, it is too often mistaken for neglect.
The article points to creative state and local approaches that seek to address the role of poverty and racial and ethnic disparities in child welfare by helping families access services. For example, the article discusses how implementing differential response in some child welfare jurisdictions has helped to identify the underlying risks of neglect, which authors suggest might more appropriately be referred to as "untreated poverty syndrome." Advantages of such an approach include an enhanced partnership role for the family in identifying appropriate and customized services and a reduction in family separations and associated trauma.
The articles discusses other approaches that have helped address the nexus of poverty and neglect, including improved collaboration among child welfare and public service agencies that provide prevention services and economic supports, public and private partnerships that promote legal representation for parents and children in child welfare cases, parent advocacy groups to educate low-income parents about their heightened risk for child welfare involvement, and poverty exemptions in some jurisdictions.
The article concludes by contending that child welfare agencies need to be able to respond to both a family's immediate poverty-related safety risks and longer-term needs for financial stability to reduce removals from the home and racial and ethnic disparities.
"Addressing Poverty as a Major Risk Factor in Child Neglect: Promising Policy and Practice," by J. Duva and S. Metzger (Protecting Children, 25), is available at https://childhub.org/en/promising-child-protection-practices/addressing-poverty-major-risk-factor-child-neglect-promising.
- Study Looks at Role, Perceptions of Poverty as Contributing Factor in Child Neglect Cases
Study Looks at Role, Perceptions of Poverty as Contributing Factor in Child Neglect Cases
A study examining both caseworker and parental perceptions of poverty as a contributing factor in child neglect-related cases and home removals suggests that poverty affects both child welfare involvement and case outcomes. The study looked at the role of poverty as well as worker and parental perceptions in cases involving physical neglect in Michigan's Upper Peninsula counties. The study is based on interviews with eight child welfare workers or administrators and six parents with past or current involvement in alleged or substantiated child neglect cases.
The author notes that worker perceptions varied among workers. For example, some viewed a "dirty home" as being a sign of neglect, but others saw it as neglect. Some workers felt that clients may use poverty as an excuse for poor parenting or as a tool to gain undeserved financial resources. Parent perceptions varied from believing that poverty was the sole reason for their child welfare involvement to not accepting poverty as a contributing factor.
The study points out that, among other factors contributing to permanent family separations, the abbreviated timeline under the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act may not give parents whose children have been removed from the home enough time to achieve financial stability in order to assist in having their parental rights reinstated.
"Poverty, Neglect, and Involvement in the Child Welfare System: Perceptions of Workers and Parent Clients," by Emily Perdue (Proceedings of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, 2013), is available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2358620.
Strategies and Tools for Practice
This section of CBX offers publications, articles, reports, toolkits, and other resources that provide either evidence-based strategies or other concrete help to child welfare and related professionals.
- Live Well San Diego
Live Well San Diego
The Community Collaborations to Strengthen and Preserve Families grant cluster, funded by the Children's Bureau in fiscal year 2019, promotes the use of primary prevention strategies to improve the safety, stability, and well-being of families through community-based services and supports. One of those projects, Live Well San Diego (LWSD), uses a trauma-informed lens to promote health, well-being, and safety. The goal of LWSD, which is spearheaded by San Diego County Child Welfare Services and includes a network of nearly 400 partners, is to promote better health, help citizens live safely, and ensure all members of the community thrive.
LWSD uses four strategic approaches to improve the community members' health, knowledge, standard of living, community, and social functioning:
- Building a better service delivery system
- Supporting positive choices
- Pursuing policy and environmental changes
- Improving the social services culture
For more information about LWSD, visit http://www.livewellsd.org/.
- Redesigning Child Welfare to Focus on Early Intervention and Prevention
Redesigning Child Welfare to Focus on Early Intervention and Prevention
In fiscal year 2019, the Children's Bureau funded nine projects through the Community Collaborations to Strengthen and Preserve Families grant cluster to use primary prevention strategies to improve the safety, stability, and well-being of families through community-based services and supports. The Cross Program Supports and Information System Integration project in Boulder County (CO) is using funds to support a two-pronged approach to support families.
The Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services (BCDHHS) redesigned its child welfare system in 2009 and renewed its focus on early intervention and prevention activities to reduce the need for foster care placements. The following are examples of programs that stemmed from this effort:
- The School-Based Rental Assistance Program helps keep children in their school districts and out of homelessness by helping to cover housing costs and providing intensive case management supports.
- The Early Intervention Program coordinates supports for families with children ages 0-5 who are screened-out after a child protection referral. Through these efforts, families at risk for homelessness may receive Short-Term Housing or Family Unification Program vouchers to help them avoid further child protection involvement.
BCDHHS has also been using an integrated data system with community providers. This can help the parties prioritize client needs and remove barriers between isolated systems in health care, housing, and human services.
For more information about BCDHHS programming, visit https://www.bouldercounty.org/departments/housing-and-human-services/.
- Safe &Sound Seeks to Strengthen Vulnerable Families
Safe &Sound Seeks to Strengthen Vulnerable Families
Safe & Sound is a child advocacy organization based in San Francisco that aims to raise awareness of and prevent child maltreatment. The organization's ideals revolve around strengthening families, collaborating with partners to make preventing child maltreatment a communal activity, honoring a variety of perspectives and lived experiences, focusing on strengths, using data to inform its work, and being optimistic in its work.
Safe & Sound provides support to vulnerable families and communities in the following ways:
- Advocating for laws, policies, and practices that put children first
- Collaborating with government agencies and community organizations to provide support and services to children and their parents or caregivers
- Educating children, parents, and child-serving professionals (e.g., teachers, after-school staff, first responders) on how to identify and prevent child maltreatment by offering free classes and workshops on topics such as safety and relationships
- Supporting families by helping them build upon their strengths to increase their protective factors
The organization also educates children about maltreatment through a series of classroom lessons on personal safety, assertiveness, safe versus unsafe touch, and how to develop a system of support. It also offers parents classes, workshops, parenting tips, child safety classes, a hotline (415-441-KIDS) that provides support in parenting and providing care to children, and more.
To read more about Safe & Sound and access its resources, visit https://safeandsound.org/.
- Project GAIN Provides Economic Support to At-Risk Families
Project GAIN Provides Economic Support to At-Risk Families
Project GAIN (Getting Access to Income Now) was a research project with the goal of preventing child maltreatment by providing at-risk families with economic supports to help them reduce their financial stress and increase their income stability. The project's research population included approximately 5,000 families from Milwaukee who were investigated by child protective services but did not receive ongoing services (i.e., their cases were closed following an investigation). Families were selected between October 2011 and September 2016. Participant families worked with a financial advocate for 8 to 10 weeks and were provided with the following services:
- A comprehensive eligibility assessment for an array of public and private economic supports and assistance accessing these resources
- Financial decision-making assistance, including collaborative work with a Project GAIN financial support specialist to identify financial goals and steps to achieve them
- Access to one-time emergency cash supplements to alleviate immediate financial stressors
With these services, Project GAIN expected to increase family economic stability as well as income level, which in turn were predicted to improve overall family functioning (e.g., reduce parenting stress and mental health problems, improve parenting skills and self-efficacy).
The preliminary results of the project found that the majority of families who decided to participate were highly motivated to engage in financial planning. The financial advocates focused mostly on issues such as challenges with rent, energy bills, or employment. Most clients (70 percent) received some sort of monetary benefit during their participation in the program. These findings also showed a reduction in child maltreatment recurrence with participation in the project.
To learn more about Project GAIN, visit https://preventionboard.wi.gov/Pages/OurWork/ProjectGAIN.aspx.
- Community Collaborations to Build Service Array
Community Collaborations to Build Service Array
Written by the Capacity Building Center for States
Community partners, when working collaboratively, can achieve more positive outcomes for children and families than each partner working separately. The goal of community collaboration is to bring together individuals, agencies, organizations, and other community members with a common vision and shared goals to systematically solve existing and emerging problems that could not be solved easily by one group alone. Successful community collaborations often are anchored by a shared stake in and accountability for achieving shared goals. A new podcast series and related resources in the Capacity Building Center for States' Becoming a Family-Focused System series highlight the power of changing organizational culture to support the collaborative development of a service array that meets the complex needs of children and families.
Building Community Collaborations
Child welfare agencies seeking to build or improve the service array for the children and families they serve can develop community collaborations with multiple partners, including contracted providers, such as mental health agencies and public health departments; specialized programs, such as substance use treatment programs and at-risk youth initiatives; and nonprofit agencies that help support the health and well-being of children, youth, and families.
Consider the following when starting or building a community collaboration:
- Communication and engagement are critical throughout the life of the collaboration. In the beginning, this may be communicating clearly with potential partners about why the agency is seeking to form a collaborative and why each partner is vital to its success. Communication should continue for the duration of the collaboration and should be frequent, transparent, and inclusive.
- Developing a shared understanding of the purpose of the group is one of the first collaborative tasks. While the child welfare agency may have convened the group, all members should make these early decisions together. This may take the form of a team charter, a memorandum of agreement, or some other less formal agreement. At a minimum, there should be an understanding of the purpose of the group, expectations of its members, and the common objectives of all members (e.g., child and family well-being).
- Strong leadership and commitment at all levels are required to establish healthy collaboration. It is helpful to identify a point person for each organization. Streamlining communication and identifying points of contact encourages communication not only across member leadership but throughout member organizations. The more familiar agency and organization staff are with the collaborative, the more likely innovative ideas will bubble up and cross-organizational activities will occur.
Sustaining Community Collaborations
A common reason a collaboration becomes stagnant or disbands is unresolved conflict. While conflict often is natural, not resolving it can create problems. Far from a hindrance, conflict represents an opportunity to listen carefully to concerns; address them head on; and, as a group, find a resolution acceptable to all. This gives the collaborative a chance to demonstrate a commitment to communication and transparency, establish (or reestablish) a shared understanding, and demonstrate strong leadership and commitment to the group.
Once established, community collaborations must be maintained to keep members at the table, hold each other accountable, and sustain momentum. A community collaboration should routinely review and assess its work, make course corrections if needed, and be ready for what is next on the child welfare horizon.
Community Collaboration in Action
Washington, DC, provides an example of a community collaborative whose members have shared data and program information with one another to determine unmet needs, underserved populations, and duplicative services. In the last 20 years, the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) has worked with community organizations to form multiple collaboratives to address the high number of children in foster care.
Recently, the community collaboratives have come together with CFSA to strategize ways to improve and increase prevention and evidence-based services. Armed with data on maltreatment reports and different child welfare indicators, the group was able to make collective, data-informed decisions on the best way to move forward.
In the podcast series, Robert Matthews, director of entry services for CFSA, said this about working with community partners: "True partnership comes when [we] can sit at the table and help develop [strategies] and not just be provided a directive. So, the partnership has to come when the agency, the funder, can shift its perspective on being a funder versus a partner. And so, you really have to [...] allow your providers to have a voice and have a say."
Center for States' Resources to Learn More About Collaboration
How We Partner With the Community to Improve Service Options [podcast series]
Becoming a Family-Focused System: Strategies for Building a Culture for Service Collaboration
Strategic Planning in Child Welfare: Strategies for Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement
Change and Implementation in Practice: Teaming
Building and Sustaining Collaborative Community Relationships
- Webinar Highlights Child Welfare and Poverty
Webinar Highlights Child Welfare and Poverty
The National Association of Counsel for Children conducted a webinar on October 22, 2019, highlighting the intersection of poverty and child neglect and how the child welfare system tends to confuse poverty with genuine neglect. Presenters include Diane Redleaf, child and family advocate, adjunct professor at the University of Chicago Law School, and author of the book They Took the Kids Last Night: How the Child Protection System Puts Families at Risk, and Ruth White, executive director of the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare.
The webinar covers the following topics:
- Why poverty matters for lawyers for children
- The scope and legislative context of the problem
- The importance of restoring reasonable efforts to use child welfare resources to help keep children at home
- Child abuse registers and their impact on family economic security
- Housing programs and resources to help vulnerable families
- The Family Poverty Is Not Child Neglect Act, which was introduced in June 2019, and next steps
To listen to the webinar, go to https://register.gotowebinar.com/recording/36013798154454529 and complete the free registration.
For more information on the topics discussed in the webinar, visit the National Association of Counsel for Children at https://www.naccchildlaw.org/ and the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare at https://www.nchcw.org/.
- Addressing Poverty in Child Neglect Cases
Addressing Poverty in Child Neglect Cases
An article from the American Bar Association discusses the importance of looking at poverty as a cause of maltreatment rather than as being maltreatment itself.
The National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, which is done on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, found that children in families of low socioeconomic status (SES) were at significantly greater risk of abuse and neglect. The incidence rate of maltreatment in families of low SES is more than five times the rate of children in families that were not of low SES, with the incidence rate of abuse being more than three times higher and the and the risk of neglect being more than seven times higher. In addition, certain characteristics of poverty, such as unemployment and maternal depression, add to the risk of maltreatment among children in low-income families.
The article highlights state legislative and judicial approaches as well as state agency approaches to the link between poverty and neglect that differentiate between poverty as a cause of neglect and poverty as neglect.
State legislative and judicial approaches include the following:
- Including a poverty exemption to states' definitions of neglect, such as outright exemption of neglect if poverty is a factor and exemptions for environmental factors not under the parents' control
- Prohibiting the termination of parental rights based on poverty alone, unless it has been determined that the removal is in the best interests of the child
State agency approaches include the following:
- Increasing availability and access to financial services, including subsidies and vouchers, employment services, and financial education
- Increasing parental self-advocacy, including encouraging families to increase their participation in decision-making and educating low-income parents about their increased risk of involvement with child protective services and their constitutional and legal rights as respondents
- Using a differential response approach that treats reports of child neglect in poor families with a family needs assessment rather than an adversarial and investigative approach
To read the article, "Addressing the Underlying Issue of Poverty in Child-Neglect Cases," visit https://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/committees/childrens-rights/articles/2014/addressing-underlying-issue-poverty-child-neglect-cases/.
This section of CBX provides a quick list of interesting resources, such as websites, videos, journals, funding or scholarship opportunities, or other materials that can be used in the field or with families.
- When Poverty Is Confused With Neglect
When Poverty Is Confused With Neglect
When trying to stabilize their families and keep their children at home, poor parents often face additional hurdles, including struggling to balance safety and survival and subjectivity in maltreatment reporting. Although some states have statutes saying a child cannot be removed from a home because of poverty alone, circumstances and decisions can still pull these families into the child welfare system.
Rise magazine interviewed Daniel Hatcher, author of The Poverty Industry: The Exploitation of America's Most Vulnerable Citizens, and several other professionals, including a parent advocate, in the child welfare and legal fields about the relationship between child welfare and parenting while poor. They give insight as to why poor families are more likely to be investigated for neglect, the way that state guidelines and standards affect how child welfare systems decide if something is neglect or poverty, and what could be done to help parents in need keep their families together.
Read the article, "'Poor' Parenting—When Poverty Is Confused With Neglect," at http://www.risemagazine.org/2017/11/poor-parenting-when-poverty-is-confused-with-neglect/.
- Family Poverty Is Not Child Neglect
Family Poverty Is Not Child Neglect
Families experiencing poverty can sometimes face the additional challenge of fighting to keep their family together when they struggle to provide stable, appropriate housing or meet other needs of their children. "Family Poverty Is Not Child Neglect" is a 1-hour podcast that focuses on Congresswoman Gwen Moore as she shares her personal experience of fighting to keep custody of her oldest daughter while struggling to make ends meet as a young mother and the legislation she introduced to prevent separation of families because of poverty.
This episode also covers an initiative to protect workers against wage theft as well as more issues affecting low-income workers and families. Listen to the podcast at https://soundcloud.com/offkiltershow/family-poverty-is-not-child-neglect.
- Families Facing Eviction and Housing Challenges
Families Facing Eviction and Housing Challenges
In the book Evicted, sociologist Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they face housing challenges and eviction. It explores poverty and economic exploitation as well as ideas for solving this issue for families across the country. When asked why he wrote this book, Mr. Desmond responded, "I used to think eviction and homelessness were the result of poverty. But I came to recognize that eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty in America. The lack of affordable housing is driving families to financial ruin and is one of the most important drivers of inequality in the nation today." As he described the process of writing the book, he recounted, "It shook me to my core. I saw mothers trying to decide between feeding their children and paying the rent. I saw children so used to being batted around from one place to the next that they gave off no emotion during an eviction: no tears, no running to grab a favorite possession, nothing." This book may provide insight for child welfare and related professionals about the housing issues being faced by their clients.
To learn more about Evicted, visit http://evictedbook.com/.
- Jefferson County Prosperity Project
Jefferson County Prosperity Project
Jeffco Prosperity Partners is a project dedicated to ending multigenerational cycles of poverty, lifting families into self-defined prosperity, and helping their children achieve their educational goals. This network of partners—consisting of over 60 groups and organizations that include governments, schools, businesses, faith groups, and more—has come together to create a community of wraparound services. Through this, they aim to reduce the duplication of programs and services and decrease costs.
Families usually opt in through the Head Start program. They work with coaches who define their goals using five key areas (economic support, education, social capital, health and wellness, and employment) and who guide the families until their youngest child graduates from high school. The coaches use a holistic approach and personalized, flexible plans that account for families' unique challenges and needs.
Learn more about how Jeffco Prosperity Partners is working toward creating self-sufficient families at https://www.jeffco.us/2716/Jeffco-Prosperity-Partners.
Training and Conferences
Find trainings, workshops, webinars, and other opportunities for professionals and families to learn about how to improve the lives of children and youth as well as a listing of upcoming events and conferences.
Upcoming conferences and events on child welfare and adoption include the following:
- 2019 Global Youth Justice Conference
Global Youth Justice, Inc
December 3-5, Las Vegas, NV
- "Challenging Class Privilege in Adoption" [Webinar]
Pact, An Adoption Alliance
December 4, online
- "First/Birth Parent Voices" [Webinar]
Pact, An Adoption Alliance
January 8, online
- Society for Social Work and Research Annual Conference
Society for Social Work and Research
January 15-19, Washington, DC
- 35th Annual San Diego International Conference on Child and Family Maltreatment
Chadwick Center for Children and Families
January 25-30, San Diego, CA
- "Adoptive Parent Learning: Been There Done That - What We Learned That Could Help You" [Webinar]
Pact, An Adoption Alliance
January 29, online
- Sixth Annual Anti-Human Trafficking Conference
Wichita State University Center for Combating Human Trafficking
January 31, Wichita, KS
- "Transracial Adoption for Adoptive Parents of Color" [Webinar]
Pact, An Adoption Alliance
February 19, online
- 21st Annual Families and Fathers National Conference
Fathers and Families Coalition of America
February 24-27, Los Angeles, CA
- 2019 Global Youth Justice Conference
- Training to Prevent Child Neglect
Training to Prevent Child Neglect
CANTASD (the National Child Abuse and Neglect Technical Assistance and Strategic Dissemination Center), a service of the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect within the Children's Bureau, offers a training series on preventing child neglect geared toward students, parents, caregivers, and practitioners that serve children and families, as well as those in the general public. The training series raises public awareness and understanding of child maltreatment, its causes, protective factors that help to strengthen families, and manageable steps to take to help reduce the likelihood of child neglect.
Within the series, the course "Training 2: Fact of Fiction" shares key facts about child neglect and discusses common assumptions and allows participants to discuss the following issues:
- Poverty can be a risk factor for child neglect. However, it is important to remember that most families living in poverty do not neglect their children.
- Child neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment.
- Child neglect has serious and long-term effects.
- Although parents love their children, they may struggle with how to provide for their needs.
- Child neglect affects not only families but the community and society as well.
- Child neglect crosses all cultural, economic, geographic, social, religious, and ethnic boundaries.
Courses include visual presentations and a toolkit that provides learning objectives, guidance, journaling activities, links to additional resources, and more.
To learn more about the Preventing Child Neglect series, including "Training 2: Fact or Fiction," visit https://cantasd.acf.hhs.gov/explore-topics/neglect/preventing-child-neglect-training-series/.