however, that CHSW was often the beneficiary of land formerly belonged to the Indigenous peoples of the state. Including the Browns, 10 were men and four were women. All Children’s Home Society of Washington’s administrators have been White. Based on this pattern, one could easily conclude nothing has changed at CHSW in its long history, but its past and present is more complicated than this assumption. Reverend Brown introduced the first child protection law in Washington state, and CHSW also played a pivotal role in the formation of juvenile courts that would later allow for the courts to separate children from their families to CHSW, where they could be matched with ideally adoptive families. Adoption during this period was uncommon, and it required a great deal of proselytizing by organizations like CHSW in the early 1900s until it became socially acceptable. On the national front, CHSW was one of the founding members of the Child Welfare League of America, so in partnership with like-minded national organizations, CHSW played a pivotal role in what would become the modern professionally driven foster care and adoption industry in the United States. At this point, the reader has probably noticed that our choice of language and framing of historic milestones in our history are different from the dominant narrative of child welfare history in the United States. We are aware of CHSW’s positive historical narrative, and we in no way want to diminish the positive contributions CHSW and institutions like it have made to children and families for over a century. We would argue that by not acknowledging the unintended consequences of the systems CHSW helped create, we are preventing ourselves from seeing what practices and public policies we can create today to build healthy ecosystems where children and families can prosper. CHSW is now on a journey of understanding both our history and current practices, identifying harm that we have done or are doing, acknowledging that harm, and repairing the damage. We are far from where we want to be as an organization in this regard, but we believe by joining with those with lived experiences, we can be an ally to children, families, and communities.
For over 100 years, CHSW and adoption were synonymous, and it was considered a leader in adoption best practices, but roughly 30 years ago, the organization hit another important developmental milestone under the leadership of its 14th administrator, Sharon Osborne. Up until that time, CHSW provided the usual services of foster care, adoption, and residential care. Under Osborne’s leadership, CHSW began to transform to yet a new iteration of supporting families by adding new early learning and family support. As these new services grew, CHSW traditional services began to shrink until they became a small percentage of the service portfolio. In addition, in the late 2000s, the organization led a statewide initiative called Catalyst for Kids that incorporated parent voice in child welfare policies and launched a peer- mentoring program called Parents for Parents that promoted reunification of families. In 2021, CHSW transferred its last adoption program to the state, which ended its work in what was the reason for its creation and how it defined itself for over a century. In addition to having to say goodbye to adoption staff, this ending was an existential threat for many of our longstanding employees. So today, CHSW is accelerating on a journey where we are just as focused on child and family well-being as our founders, but we have the benefit of 126 years of experience, brain science, and the wisdom of those with lived experience who are partners in the journey. In 2020, the agency joined with consultants to undergo a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) assessment of the organization in which many areas were identified to create a healthier organization for the families we serve and our employees. Driving questions for the assessment included the following: 1. How would stakeholders describe the culture of Children’s Home Society of Washington? (Especially around DEI) 2. What is stakeholders’ experience of how Children’s Home Society of Washington talks about, approaches or deals with values and beliefs around DEI work? How does this show up? 3. What has worked in past efforts? What has not? Why?
74 | FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022
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