As a bilingual Family Advocate at the Center for Family Representation, I work with diverse families as they navigate the complexities of the child welfare system. As a woman of color, when I sit in court and at meetings with ACS and foster care agencies, it’s hard to ignore the prevalence of families of color.
National data indicates that children of all races are equally likely to suffer from child abuse and neglect. Yet African Americans are investigated for child abuse and neglect twice as often as whites and the majority of children in foster care are children of color. I witness this disproportionality every day in my work, as 94% of the families we serve at CFR are people of color.
CFR has already blazed a trail in providing interdisciplinary team representation and service delivery for parents. We are also learning the importance of thinking critically about the social and political environment in which we work. Along with a small group of CFR staff members, I recently participated in a series of trainings on structural racism within different systems. This month, the entire CFR staff convened for a discussion that broadened our understanding of how structural racism impacts our work, our interactions with clients and each other.
This important discourse is also being explored in the Manhattan Family Court, where the Disproportionate Minority Representation Committee, an alliance of child welfare professionals, examines why there are a disproportionate number of families of color in the child welfare system. In October, the Committee held a screening of the film Race: the Power of an Illusion, followed by a panel discussion of how race, racism, class, and poverty affect how cases are handled and families are treated in NYC Family Court. CFR’s own Darlene Jorif-Mangane, Litigation Supervisor, sat on the panel that led the discussion. Additionally, CFR Parent Advocate Sabra Jackson is active in the Undoing Racism in Child Welfare group, a collective of parent advocates, ACS caseworkers, agency staff, and other professionals who meet monthly to discuss anti-racist strategies within the child welfare system.
It is significant for me, as a child welfare practitioner of color with CFR who identifies so closely with the communities we serve, to be able to take part in such an important endeavor. I look forward to continuing this discourse and to helping to lead efforts to improve our practice and the way that we seek justice for all families.
Liz Hernandez Majumder is a Bilingual Family Advocate at the Center for Family Representation. She is part of the Disproportionate Minority Representation Committee and holds her MS in Urban Policy Analysis from the Milano School of International Affairs at The New School. She lives in Brooklyn.