COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATIONS and CHILD WELFARE: BUILDING COMMUNITIES of HOPE

By Bell, William C. | National Urban League. The State of Black America, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATIONS and CHILD WELFARE: BUILDING COMMUNITIES of HOPE


Bell, William C., National Urban League. The State of Black America


Communities matter. Research in recent years has shown that where children live is one of the most significant influences on their life potential and outcomes.' Studies have shown that where we live has a major impact on the quality of opportunities we are able to access; the quality of schools children will attend; the quality of public services we receive; the type, quality and cost of services immediately available; access to transportation; exposure to health risks; and access to and the quality of health care.

If where we live matters, then it stands to reason that strengthening the communities where our most vulnerable children live can help change the trajectory of their lives. If communities are isolated, under-resourced and suffering, the families living in those communities are most likely challenged and not doing well, or only marginally so, and the children in those families suffer the consequences.

On average, every 24 hours, in communities across America:

? Approximately 2,000 children are conñrmed as victims of child abuse and neglect.2

? Nearly 700 children are removed from their families and placed in foster care.3

? About four children die as a result of child abuse and neglect; most of them before they reach their hfth birthday.4

? Approximately 13young people between the ages of 10 and 24 are murdered.5

? Nearly 12young people under the age of 25 take their own life.6

Too often the systems we have in place to address children and youth in at-risk situations or who engage in risky behaviors take a rather narrow approach that focuses only on the child or his or her behavior. Historically, we've attempted to resolve child abuse and neglect and other issues that infringe upon a child's well-being without addressing the needs and challenges of their families and the needs and challenges present in the communities where those children and families live.

My years working in the child welfare arena have led me to conclude that in order to effectively address the issues of child abuse and neglect, we must secure the well-being and safety of children by adopting a holistic approach that includes the participation of communities and aims to secure their well-being by assisting their families in the communities where they live.

Just as Abraham Lincoln, 150 years ago, proclaimed an end to the institution of slavery in an effort to save a nation, so too must we commit ourselves to proclaiming an end to the social, economic and educational isolation of vulnerable children, families and communities. We must commit as a nation to build communities of hope if we are to fulfill the dreams of all our children.

This does not mean committing millions of new dollars in new government programs. Building communities of hope means:

1. Working together to strengthen struggling communities through a continuum of community-based resources in order to assist families in resolving the challenges they are facing-challenges such as unemployment, poverty, drug use, meeting basic needs, mental health and the lack of social supports.

2. Reforming our nation's child welfare finance system to allow child welfare and other professionals to respond to the needs of vulnerable children not just in the context of child rescue and foster care, but also in the broader context that includes prevention and meeting a child's family and community needs.

This is not a task for child welfare alone. Building communities of hope will require collaboration across various government systems and with non-profit, philanthropic, corporate and community-based institutions. Building communities of hope requires all of us to have shared ownership of the issues, shared responsibility for the solutions, and a shared vision for what is possible.

There is a critical role for all communitybased and faith-based organizations in promoting the social and emotional well-being for vulnerable children and their families who need a whole host of effective alternatives that these entities can provide. …

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