FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

family, siblings separated, and exceedingly poor outcomes for those approximately 20,000 youth who leave foster care due to age each year after spending most of their growing up years in a series of foster care placements. These results speak for themselves. It’s time for all of us to step up to make sure communities have what they need to play their vital roles. That means more flexibility in funding, directing funding elsewhere, and trusting that communities can be there for families. It begins by addressing our own hubris as decision-makers and believing that communities and families are able to identify what would be helpful and how it should be available. During our years in the Children’s Bureau, we visited and observed enough programs around the country to know that there is a better route to helping families stay together, strong, and safe. There are better ways to build upon the strengths of communities to support families that are hopeful and healing because they are grounded in culture, healing, and wellness, not family separation. We saw first-hand the approaches used by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe in Washington State, the San Mar Bester Community of Hope in Maryland, the Bring Up Nebraska initiative, the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, NY, and others. Each of the efforts is an example of networks of supports, in different communities, that are bravely taking on the core conditions that bring families to the attention of the child protection system so that children can remain safely with their families right in their own communities. They are places that proactively provide a

wide range of familial supports, including legal assistance, childcare, tutoring, after- school care, peer support, aid with concrete needs including housing, and numerous other community supports. These places convinced us that it indeed still existed and even more strongly. They are places that build upon strengths and help fill gaps that families trust. This is the power of community! This issue of the Family Integrity & Justice Quarterly is intended to take us beyond the notion of the community “stepping up” and taking responsibility for families’ well-being. It is intended to highlight the need to invest in communities to support families and begin making up for the harm approaches to date have done to families and their communities. This issue also provides much-needed insight into how and why we should engage with communities and pursue true co-design to help create conditions that strengthen families. Additionally, it is a clarion call to consider the damages to families inflicted by a system that is funded open-endedly to separate children from parents and minisculely to support them in staying happily together. We can, in fact, do better for our children and families when we invest in the power of their voices, self-determination, and communities. So long as we allow status quo funding approaches and policies to limit our imaginations and commitment to replacing outdated ways of work, we will be stymied. But, as we press forward to demonstrate that there is indeed a better way, we may just realize the consequence of policy and funding that follows the practice and outcomes.

8 | FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022

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