FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

the time that it became available (post-Wilder) as a strategy for social control and management of these same communities. We propose that the tragedy in child welfare should be understood as one that engages all of us, those who have direct experience in the child welfare system as providers, policymakers, researchers, and participants, as well of those who have no awareness or engagement in child welfare systems but who have lived in a society that has not meaningfully troubled our shared history and the purposes of our broadly employed systems of control and oppression. Our Frame We advocate shifting the frame and reinterpreting the focus and purposes of child welfare systems. We believe that any approach to improving the welfare of children must be grounded in a vision of achieving community or population-level wellbeing for all members of the collective. This frame recognizes the historical threats to wellbeing by systems legally limiting human rights and poses systemic solutions that are framed not just to engage individuals but to engage all of us at the level of the entire collective. We take the view that the principal commitment of a child welfare system should be to reckon with the historical and current drivers of neighborhood-level conditions that predict disproportionate engagement in the child welfare system. These include racism and the perpetuation of disinvestment in communities in a way that limits community power. The evolution of a system from one that only focuses on attaining safety by addressing only the most proximal causes of harm (the hand of the parent) to one invested in ensuring equity at a community level (fortifying the strength of a community that names its history, the terms of its engagement and the goals it seeks to attain), will allow us to hope that the decades- long leveraging of the power of child welfare systems to manage and control Black and Brown bodies through child welfare systems involvement, will finally end. What Needs to Change? We suggest that solutions must come from communities themselves, communities

that uncover histories and name all of the ways in which inequity had impacted them, communities organizing to demand change and participate in the development of services and supports that they desire to ensure that they can fully actualize their members’ potential. We do recognize that people who are injured while living in circumstances in an environment challenged by inequitable distribution of resources and power need to be urgently helped to return to stability. The value of an individual’s return to stability is not the end in itself, however, nor can it be the sole focus of a system of intervention. The return to stability has value because it enables the individual to participate fully as a member of both their immediate family and a successful and resilient community that can call out and resist oppressive actions that seek to limit it. A system of intervention that only acts to triage the injured and return them to conditions designed to ensure that their voice and human potential will be suppressed is not a system that can promote welfare or wellbeing at the level of community or populations. We consider examples from public health: families in communities like Newark, New Jersey, who drink water contaminated with toxic chemicals, or in homes with lead paint contaminants cannot be well. When harmed, community members must be offered effective interventions to return them quickly to stability so that they can engage in meaningful daily lives and contribute to the success of their shared community. Unless, however, at the same time that they are treated urgently for toxic exposure, they become aware of the causes of their illness from the immediate to the historic—lead-lined water pipes, a neglected water infrastructure, decades of economic disinvestment in their community, redlining, disinterest or refusal to enforce tenant protections, and the ways in which those conditions are different from the conditions in communities that do not experience water poisoning—they cannot become advocates for their own and their neighbors’ interests and cannot leverage their collective influence to demand that they have safety and security in their shared environment. Communities that ensure adequate public health for their members through enforcement of limits on water and air contaminants, enforcement of laws to control landlord abuses, effective

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