FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

Keeping Families Together: Studying the Past to Inform the Future Reimagining,

How to Assist Families Dave Newell and Shrounda Selivanoff

“Yes, and how many years must a person exist before they are allowed to be free? Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see?” — Bob Dylan “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which yourself have altered”. — Nelson Mandela Introduction

social work and lived experience as a foster and transracial adoptive father—we have come to the same truth. When children and families experience such overwhelming issues, caregivers cannot go it alone. The entire family needs support. Prior to our involvement in child welfare and social work, our ideas were based on mainstream orthodoxies about parents and their inability to care for or lack of concern for their children. Today, based on our experiences, our perceptions and understanding of the problems and the system currently in place to provide solutions have dramatically shifted. To tell the full story, we must unearth looking into the past. Doing so can assist us in supporting families in a way that acknowledges the system’s history and the current structures, which are more harmful than helpful and ineffective in genuinely addressing the root causes and needs of families; as a result, families find themselves scrutinized, surveilled, and powerless. Armed with these facts, we must create and build community solutions with those most impacted at the center: families. Insight from the Past History provides so much insight into the past, the places where growth has occurred, and where society has remained unchanged or slow in progress. In 1909, the Whitehouse

To the casual observer, there is a common assumption of families involved in the child welfare system. Child welfare is designed to save and protect, and those involved—the caregivers—must have done something wrong to their children, and the Child Protection Service (CPS) must be the solution. We, too, had ideas about child welfare. However, lived experience has provided us with insight and understanding that surface appearances are not necessarily as they seem, as families and systems are complex. Indeed, there is much need for unlearning regarding these harmful narratives surrounding families and the promotion of CPS as child protectors. We assert the communities in which our families reside are the solution for families. Individually, we sometimes feel isolated and alone in this world, particularly when involving issues that carry a stigma or are deemed character flaws by society. These issues include substance abuse and addiction, behavioral health issues, poverty, and homelessness, among others. However, these are common threads tied to families experiencing the child welfare system. Through our collective journeys—one as a Black woman whose lived experience can attest to those feelings of isolation and shame as a parent entangled in the child welfare system, and the other as a white male who has spent 30 years professionally in

70 | FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022

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