Unless you’re closely involved in the foster care realm in some facet, you likely don’t understand it, BUT you probably think you do. Because before working with Children’s First, I also thought I did.
The media portrays foster care as a sanctuary for children with unfit parents, usually those that fall victim to the perpetual cycle of substance abuse, or those that are either victims or perpetrators of domestic violence. To the public, all children in foster care are scathed by a history of abuse and/or neglect at the hands of their parents and that therefore, every child in foster care is in need of a “new, loving home”.
That, however, is just not the reality of foster care.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Children's Bureau has identified a list of risk factors that may hinder a parent and/or caregivers’ perceived ability to parent a child. These risk factors include things that are often out of an individual’s control and are, frankly, striking, like financial hardship or disability.
Many circumstances in which children are removed from their homes could be avoided, had there been some sort of resource or program that helped keep families together. As stated in the previous paragraph - the risk factors listed above are based on perceived inability of an individual to parent, without any regard to whether or not it infringes on the rights of the individuals themselves.
This knowledge isn’t commonplace and with the romanticization of the foster care system and adoption, and the results of it, in movies like The Blind Side, society’s judgement is certainly clouded as it pertains to the foster care system. Add in the ever growing presence of social media and bloggers that capitalize on foster and adoption in today’s society and things are muddied even more.
Reunification takes place far more often than one might think, especially as it compares to the way in which it is portrayed in the media and on social media. In fact, according to The Children’s Bureau, 55% of children in foster care left by way of reunification with their parents and/or family members. With over half of the children being reunited with the people in their families, one can only surmise that it is, indeed, a big part of foster care resolution.
Earlier in the month, Children First shared a post that addressed the #FosterToAdopt hashtag, especially as it compares to #FosterToReunify. The #FosterToAdopt hashtag is full of thousands of smiling faces, letter boards, and happy moments while the #FosterToReunify hashtag is, more or less, far more empty (but also not lacking in happy moments).
The narrative needs to shift to one that acknowledges that #FamiliesAreBetterTogether and that fostering with the intent to reunify is not only positively impacting the lives of the kids you serve, but also the families that are behind them.
As June comes to a close, so does #NationalReunificationMonth, but the movement toward shifting the perspective about reunification marches forward and we are proud to be just a small part of that.
With the arrival of June comes the beginning of #NationalReunificationMonth.
How fitting is it that we get to share our elation at one of our own, Audey Lee, being named a "Champion of Blueprint for Family First" by the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services for their work as a SafeCare Home Visitor!
Through their work at SafeCare, Audey has shown time and time again dedication to family preservation and reunification when at all possible. With Georgia's newest Blueprint for Family First initiative, it only makes sense that someone as devoted as Audey would be named a champion. Because of individuals like Audey, more children will be able to safely live and grow up at home - and we couldn't be more proud to have them on our team!
Below is the video that features Audey and their work at Children First. We hope you'll take the time to watch it!
We are so excited to welcome two new staff members to our family here at Children First!
Brittany Siewe and Courtney Thurston are joining the team as CASA Advocacy Coordinators and we can't wait to see what their individual passions and expertise bring to our CASA program.
Get to know Brittany and Courtney a little bit below:
Brittany is passionate about making advances in racial, social, and economic equity. Prior to joining Children's First, she was involved in fields focused on advocacy and social justice, including serving as an Election Fellow with RESULTS Educational Fund where she educated members of Congress on key RESULTS global policy issues, including maternal and child health, and access to education. Brittany holds a B.A. from Hampton University, and a J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. When she isn't working, Brittany enjoys traveling, volunteering and spending time with her husband.
Courtney is driven by the desire to give parents, caregivers & communities all the tools and support necessary in order to provide children with the opportunity to thrive in healthy and positive environments.
Courtney has a Bachelor's degree in Sociology from the University of Florida and a Master's of Social Work from UGA and has worked in the field of Child Welfare in various capacities, including Operations & Therapeutic Caregiving at the Child Abuse Prevention Center in San Francisco, an MSW internship with the CEASE law clinic in Athens, as well as Foster care case management with Barrow DFCS. Outside of work, Courtney finds joy in music, being outdoors, traveling, exploring new places and spending time with loved ones.
We hope you'll join us in giving a warm welcome to these two brilliant women! Happy to have you joining the family, Brittany and Courtney!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.