Racial Justice In The Child Welfare System


In August 2019, CFPIC sponsored a convening of California’s Child Welfare Directors as part of its on-going Child Welfare Core Practice Model (CPM) Directors’ Institute, which began in 2017 to support the implementation of the CPM.  At the 2019 Session, several Child Welfare Directors challenged the Directors’ Institute Faculty to view its work through a lens of race, equity and inclusion.  The Directors Institute Faculty began planning an intense two-day session with California’s Child Welfare Directors, during which all of the previous work that resulted in the CPM was to be reviewed through a racial equity lens.  While California’s leadership believes that adherence to the CPM will result in more effective and equitable services to the children and families in the counties’ Child Welfare systems, the purpose of the review was to make explicit the attention paid to the specific needs of families of color.

With the advent of COVID-19 and the widespread attention to racial justice issues that arose in 2020, the Faculty understood how important it would be to attend to these issues in the Child Welfare System irrespective of whether activities could be conducted in-person.  The Faculty began their exploration of this critical issue with three Listening Sessions in July 2020 in order to understand how they we might be helpful in supporting Child Welfare Directors’ efforts to address racial justice issues in their agencies and in their communities.

Supporting Child Welfare Directors:

Based on what the Faculty learned from the Listening Sessions, they identified some additional steps to support the Directors in addressing these issues, with the understanding that strategies that work in one community may not work in all others, due to the wide diversity of communities across California.

Starting in October 2020, the Faculty are providing a series of zoom sessions that address racial justice issues in the Child Welfare system.

Leveraging CPM To Build A Race Equity Culture

Session 1, on October 29, 2020, focused on becoming familiar with key terms to establish a common understanding about racial equity/inequity in the Child Welfare system and knowing the context and history of racism within the child welfare system in order to appreciate the impact that race equity has on decision-making within our field.

Changing Our Behaviors To Change Our Culture

Session 2, “Changing our Behaviors to Change our Culture,” on February 24, 2021, offered participants the opportunity to acquire ideas about entry points into the work of anti-racism within our systems, examine how the antidotes to white supremacy culture can transform organizational culture, and continue to explore together what we can do to promote equity in our organizations.

Learning From Our Past And Present To Create A More Promising Future

Session 3, Learning From Our Past and Present to Create a More Promising Future,” occurred on April 27, 2021. This interactive event reflected on 20 years of REI work in California’s child welfare agencies by looking back on past strategies utilized to address racial disproportionalities and disparities and offer counties an opportunity to share their current efforts through facilitated discussions.

Growing And Linking Our Knowledge About Data, History And Sovereignty To Strengthen ICWA Practice And Leadership Behaviors

On August 19, 2021, we held the first of a three part series exploring the history of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), its impact on the Child Welfare system and successful approaches to its implementation in California. This inaugural session, “Growing and Linking our Knowledge About Data, History and Sovereignty to Strengthen ICWA Practice and Leadership Behaviors” focused on what data tells us about Native families and CWS and confronted the historical context of the Native experience and the impacts of government laws and practices on Native children and families.

Session two:

Session three:

Many Cultures, One People: A Deep Dive into the Experiences of Latinx Families in the Child Welfare System and Using the CPM to Forge a Better Path

This three-part series was created to help participants understand the history and diversity of Latinx populations and how to use the CPM as the vehicle to improve the experiences and outcomes for Latinx children and families engaged in the child welfare system.

Session one:

Additional Resources

The Faculty are maintaining an on-line Racial Justice Resource Folder on our Google Drive that incorporates a wide array of articles and links that can be helpful to the larger community as the Directors and their colleagues explore how to address racial justice issues. Click below to access the folder.

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