FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

52 | FIJ Quarterly Spring 2022 We support what we refer to internally as the “Ladder of Leadership.” This practice prioritizes the preparation of community members to take on leadership and directorship responsibilities of the many programs that we offer. As we engage community members from their early elementary school years, many of our programs are now directed by individuals who grew up participating in our programs and went on to achieve graduate education and degrees. This evolution of the leadership of our programs to the community itself is a deeply held commitment at our organization. Advocacy on issues that relate to our vision of community services that is framed in our core commitment to human rights and social justice is also key. We have engaged in a number of advocacy efforts, including “Know Your Rights” programs for immigrant New Yorkers, “Know Your Rights” for low-income workers and domestic workers, outreach to excluded workers who are not recognized by our public benefits systems, and most recently, community learning circles considering the data on disproportionality in child welfare and criminal justice systems participation. Several of these advocacy efforts have been led by our co-author and members of the worker’s rights advocacy community here in our neighborhood. Our child welfare programs include two child maltreatment prevention programs supported through contracts with our local city government’s child welfare authority. These programs are integrated into our full portfolio of services and offer families the opportunity to learn about, become screened for, and enroll in any of the programs that we offer. In this way, our child maltreatment prevention programs are framed in a context that considers all aspects of families’ needs. It is grounded in a fundamental recognition that access to full civic participation and basic human rights are the essential starting place for any exploration of human need or human suffering, particularly in the immigrant and low-income, low-wealth communities in which we work. Conversations about safety and risk are framed in this larger exploration of the social location of a family and their community, their economic needs, and their availability to join in advocacy and solidarity. We close with an observation about the

direction of our future work. As one of us has observed in her peer community organizing work, what is truly healing and generative is the opportunity to be in circles with others where each member can imagine and iterate in a way that can change their own and others’ perspectives and where all can learn and grow together and can exercise leadership and followership. What is healing and generative is the experience of being able to make a change, inspire and activate the group and the community, and dream together. When this author began her work in child welfare, she saw that with others she can do more, pursue her education, balance her job and school, work, and serve the community. Now she has made this work her profession. Her work gives her joy and gives joy to others. She compared this process to waves in the ocean, each wave filling the next and together becoming the entire ocean. Everyone knows someone in the community. Why not organize and create a better future together? We would like to thank our readers for considering our point of view. We invite you to think deeply about why things are the way that they presently are, to find ways to surface and reckon with our collective past, and to permit ourselves to imagine an entirely new vision of what a system that truly ensures the wellbeing of children, families, and communities might be if we organize to recognize all human rights, commit ourselves to justice and create a better future together. _________________________ Julia Jean-Francois is the Co-Executive Director of the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, Inc. She has guided child welfare practice at the Center for the last 18 years. She teaches in the Master of Social Work program at Rutgers University. Zenayda Bonilla is a Peer Advocate working with the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, Inc. In Brooklyn, NY. She has been engaged in advocacy including emergency guardianship planning for immigrant families, Know Your Rights for Immigrant New Yorkers, and most recently community education around conditions impacting child welfare participation in low income, immigrant communities.

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