1.A State of Crisis Exists... Our Stories Must Be Told
There is a state of crisis within the African American community (albeit invisible to many), particularly related to the (over-)involvement of our children and families with this nation's child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The greater African American community must be made aware of this crisis, and engaged in the identification and implementation of solutions. The goal should not be solely focused on improved outcomes for African American interaction with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems in this country. The goal must be to increase the capacity and will within the African American community to be agents of change, healing and community development. Other individuals and organizations involved in this work must be respectful of and responsive to African American leadership of this work. Social scientists and researchers have, collectively and historically, done an inadequate job of describing and discussing the complexities and the integrity of the African American experience in this country, particularly as it relates to child development and family functioning. The stories of African American families and children invlolved with this nation's child welfare and juvenile justice systems must be told. These stories can best be told by the individuals that have actually lived and/or been impacted by the experience. IFCWB Commitment: The Institute for Family and Child Well-Being will: (a) participate directly in the documentation and sharing of these stories; (b) support community institutions, researchers and other social scientists in their attempts to effectively document and share these stories; and (c) work with key individuals and organizations to shape local and national discussions about the meaning and implications of these experiences to the present and the future of African American families and communities. 2.Racial Disproportionality and Disparate Outcomes is Both a Societal and Institutional Injustice
African American children have been and continue to be disproportionately represented in this nation's foster care and juvenile justice systems. African American children are represented in each of these systems in numbers far greater than their proportion of the population. African American children and families also receive disparate treatment by, and services from, this nation's child welfare and juvenile justice systems. African American families must have access to the services and support resources that enhance their ability to provide for, nurture and protect their children. The current reality (as well as the historical conditions that have created it) represents a grave injustice that the African American community and American society-at-large must work deliberately and quickly to rectify.
IFCWB Commitment: The Institute for Family and Child Well-Being will actively share information about these dynamics and their impact on both individuals and the community-at-large, as well as work directly with key individuals and institutions to more effectively mobilize the African American community and contributing systems into informed and strategic action.
3.The construct of Race has historically defined, and continues to define, the fundamental nature of African American child, family and community interactions with institutional structures in American society.
African American families are more likely than their White counterparts to be reported to child protective services for suspected abuse or neglect (even with similar presenting circumstances), are more likely to have their children removed from their care, and are likely to receive fewer and less timely services to assist in resolving any underlying challenges they may be experiencing.When African American children do enter care, they are more likely to be placed in congregate / group care settings, stay in foster care longer, and receive fewer reunification-related or permanency-related supports and services than their White counterparts. These dynamics highlight the reality that race largely influences the nature of service delivery and the decision making processes of this nation's child welfare systems. A thorough examination of the role of structural, institutional and individual level racism is imperative for individuals and organizations concerned about and/or involved in this work. IFCWB Commitment: The Institute for Family and Child Well-Being will work closely with key individuals and organizations to further explore and document the effects of individual, institutional and structural racism on African American families and communities. We will also work to undo these effects, while promoting the healing and continued development of African American families and communities.
4.Culturally Centered Practice is an Imperative
There is a tremendous need for more effective and culturally centered methods of supporting African American families while strengthening their capacity to provide for and protect their children. Similarly effective approaches to the education and training of child welfare professionals must also be identified and/or developed, and then shared with others around this country. There are likely many effective models and approaches already in existence. These models and approaches must be identified, better understood and shared with others around the country. IFCWB Commitment: The Institute for Family and Child Well-Being will work with other key individuals and organizations to develop, document and share effective culturally responsive and culture/life-affirming strategies for meeting the real needs of African American families and communities.
5.Easy Access to Accurate and Reliable Information is Needed Legislators and child welfare policy makers do not seem to have access to the most accurate and/or complete body of information regarding African American children, families and communities, particularly as it relates to: a) dynamics of child abuse and neglect, b) decision making dynamics in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, c) access to relevant and responsive child / family support services, d) access to affordable health care, e) access to affordable housing, f) access to jobs that provide a livable income, and g) adequate access to culturally responsive substance abuse and mental health treatment and services. There is obviously a great need for a central and independently operated repository of information about the experiences of African American families in this country, especially the experiences of African American children and families involved with this nation's child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
IFCWB Commitment: The Institute for Family and Child Well-Being will use its website and online information and resource repository (www.ifcwb.org) to provide easy and reliable access to related information and resources. We will continue to partner with interested individuals and institutions to make this site as responsive as possible to the needs and interests of its users.
The Institute for Family and Child Well-Being was created to support the field and the broader community in responding to these major challenges. With the support of our National Advisory Council as well as our network of concerned professionals and community members around this country, we stand ready to support professionals, organizations and communities in addressing and resolving these challenges.
We are here to support you, and request your support in return!
Thank you for your interest in, and commitment to, this work.
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