My Journal Entry: Systems Don’t Change Until People Change

As a career macro-level social worker, I’ve arrived at a major shift in perspective. The unit of change is more about people than policy. Today’s episode is about how I came to the idea that systems don’t change until people change. In other words, I believe that systems change strategies are important, but they are insufficient in advancing justice for families. I share how the strategies I’ve worked on ran up against very real limitations in their ability to improve the well-being of children or parents and keep families together. When we change the structures of the system are we solving the right problem? I wrap with some of my practices for how I am changing so that my work is in service of people rather than systems.

“Until then … I just keep moving forward.”

We embark on an inspiring journey with Brandon Youngblood, exploring his life’s challenges and triumphs. Join us as we delve into Brandon’s incredible journey from a consistently chaotic childhood marked by domestic violence and substance use to becoming a Foster Care Specialist at MDHHS. At 29 years old, Brandon’s story is one of resilience, expertise, and advocacy.

Making Holiday Traditions for Foster Youth

On this week’s podcast, we discuss some headlines that seem to emanate in part from workforce woes, a lawsuit over anonymous reporting, one state’s effort to adjust child welfare policy after marijuana legalization, and missing school while locked up.

Lisa Dickson of ACTION Ohio joins us to talk about the annual series of Thanksgiving dinners she helped state for youth in Ohio foster care, the right way to incorporate lived experience, the death of Ma’khia Bryant, and more.

Reading Room

Imperial County Social Services Report Draws Vocal Criticism

Watchdog Finds ‘Errors on Top of Errors’ at DHHS Before Child Death

Financial Crisis for Central Florida Foster Care Nonprofit

Brooklyn Mother and Son Sue New York City Children’s Services over ‘Traumatic’ CPS Investigations Following False Reports

With Cannabis Newly Legalized, Minnesota is Latest State to Adjust its Child Welfare Approach

Problem Newly Revealed in Juvenile Hall Schools: A Failure to Get Kids to Class

Education Inside and Out

Fifty Years of Transforming Youth Justice

Thanksgiving Together Ohio

“God Brings Beauty from Ashes.”

We dive into Milizhia Mills’ transformative journey—a dynamic professional and former foster youth, sharing her resilience and commitment to positive change. Join us as Milizhia unfolds her resilient spirit and commitment to positive change, shaped by her unique background. From her Bachelor’s in Sociology to excelling as a Talent Acquisition Specialist, Milizhia’s expertise in recruitment and advocacy reflects her dedication to making a difference.

Does Justice Happen in the Courtroom with Adam Ballout

Today’s episode is a conversation I had with Adam Ballout who is an attorney and public defender in Everrett, WA. The conversation centers around something Adam said to me in a conversation that piqued my curiosity, “justice doesn’t happen in the courtroom.” I wanted to understand why an attorney would say this and where he thinks justice happens. We talk through the lessons Adam learned about justice for families throughout his career, how they have shaped his law practice, and what role he thinks attorneys play in speaking truth. We also talk about the work his law practice, ABC Law Group and the FIRST Legal Clinic. If you want to learn more about the work of the Clinic you can visit their website – The First Clinic.

We reference this article by Jousha Michtom in our conversation – A Call to Action for Parents’ Lawyers in the Family Regulation System.

Love and Liberation

Welcome to Audio Nuggets, right here in the cypher, we are honored to be joined by Keshia Adeniyi-Dorsey for Episode 23: Love and Liberation.

Keshia has advocated and served as a family defender for thousands of families who have been ensnarled by family policing and the Civil Death Penalty, commonly known as TPR.  Keshia is a human being who enjoys spending time with her husband and beautiful baby girl.

In this episode, the audience is gifted with the humanness of an abolitionist. Keshia shares that her goal as a family defender is to value and protect sacred family bonds and lineage.  Keshia illustrates her love of Black families and that she gifts herself with liberation! She is true to self and acts in LOVE. And by glimpsing liberation, Keisha loves her Black people, and sees family’s full humanity.

My Journal Entry: Day One, My Decision to Leave

Today’s episode starts with me reading straight from my journal. I read the “day one” entry from August 8, 2022, when I made the decision to leave my job. What follows are some reflections about whether or not I’ve stayed true to what I set out to do. The episode ends with a bit about my daily journaling practice and how it continues to bring me so much value.

As always, you are invited to join the Proximity Podcast Club, a growing community of people who are supporting one another through their own process. We meet every Monday at 9am est. Message me on LinkedIn and I will send you the invitation.

Congressional Investigations, States Investigating Themselves, and More

On this week’s podcast, we discuss some news out of Tennessee that makes a congressional inquiry look bad, and two stories that highlight the intrinsic problem with investigations of abuse within foster care.

We also talk about new research on abortion laws and foster care entries, supportive housing’s impact on reunification, and two cool mapping resources on federal and state spending.

Reading Room

The Human Rights of Foster Children

DCS whistleblowers claim ‘cover-up’ of ‘dangerous’ conditions in state-run homes

Louisville foster kids say they were harmed in residential care. Few were believed.

The Forgotten Children of Texas

Tug of war over $125 million in temporary assistance to needy families surplus brewing

Association Between Restricted Abortion Access and Child Entries Into the Foster Care System

How Supportive Housing Can Keep Families Together

Find Federal Funding in Your Community

National Trends in State Funding for Children and Youth

Am I Solving the Right Problem with Ryan O’Donell

Today’s episode is a conversation I had with my friend Ryan O’Donnell. Ryan is a tech entrepreneur, creative problem solver, and a former foster parent. Our conversation spans his decision to become a foster parent, what that experience taught him about the system and himself, and how he is reckoning with what he can do invest in the well-being of parents to keep families together.  His story starts just like most foster parents, but where it ends up is not only unexpected, it’s actually the beginning of Ryan’s quest to solve problems that truly serve parents and families.

For more information about Ryan’s work, you can follow him at RPO Ventures.

You can also message on LinkedIn for an invitation to the Proximity Podcast Club that happens every Monday at 9am est. Ryan will be joining the next call.

“Ain’t No 2 Days The Same!”

Our guest, Jonathan Norris, Foster Care Specialist for Wayne County and DEI Core Team Member, shares profound insights into his impactful work. From investigating abuse and neglect to fostering familial unity, Mr. Norris provides crucial support for families, advocating for adoption, reunification, and Youth Voluntary Adult Foster Care.

Discover how Mr. Norris mentors minority children in Detroit, emphasizing education and life’s value. As a mentor for incarcerated youths, he employs restorative practices, positive affirmations, and motivational speaking to guide them towards positive reintegration into society.

The Potential of Pre-Petition Counsel with Jey Rajaraman

Last month, the Biden administration proposed a new rule that would permit the use of federal funding to support attorneys for tribal governments, relatives and other kin, and parents and children at risk of experiencing a family separation.

Jey Rajaraman, associate director of litigation, children and the law for the American Bar Association, spent 16 years leading parent counsel in New Jersey, helping to develop one of the nation’s first “pre-petition” programs. She joined the podcast to discuss what the new proposed rule means and the potential of earlier provision of legal counsel for families.

Reading Room

White House Announces Slate of Actions on Child Welfare

Trump Administration Rule Change Could Unleash Hundreds of Millions in Federal Funds to Defend Rights of Parents, Children in Child Protection Cases

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Foster Care Legal Representation

American Bar Association Summer of Proposed Rule

Joint Public Comment of American Bar Association, National Association of Counsel for Children and Youth Law Center

“The Way I See It: Embracing the Rainbow After the Rain.”

Join us as we navigate through Alexia Robert’s resilient narrative, titled after her uplifting perspective on life. As a mother of two, advocate, future social work student, QIC-YE TLE Member, and EFTY Tech Member, Alexia’s story is one of strength and determination.

🌈 The title perfectly encapsulates Alexia’s outlook – embracing rain to witness the beauty of rainbows. From entering foster care at 12 to facing the complexities of motherhood at 16, Alexia’s journey reflects courage and tenacity.

“Lifting families through hope, money & love.”

Our remarkable guest, Samantha Siers, the Program and Operations Coordinator at LIFT-Chicago, and Board Chair at San Miguel School, opens up about the ongoing challenges she faces while pursuing her MSW at The University of Chicago.

🌟 Discover the resilience and determination that propels Samantha forward as she shares insights into balancing academia, career, and motherhood. This episode offers a closer look at how Samantha continues to uplift others through mentorship and advocacy.

“If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” 

In this empowering episode, we delve into the inspiring life journey of Jena Piazza Braunsberg, Esquire (she/her), a remarkable Legal Training Specialist with Voce, Attorney Advisor with the SSA, and dedicated advocate for child welfare. Join us as we unravel her resilience through adversity, exploring her roles as a Solicitor for Luzerne County Children and Youth, Assistant Public Defender, and Law Clerk in Blair County, PA.

My Journal Entry: Budgets are Moral Documents

As a non-profit executive, I spent a lot of time developing, reviewing, and managing budgets. It was a weekly activity. But I never considered budgets as moral documents, until now. In this episode, I share where I first heard the idea, how I’ve been thinking about it, and how I’m applying it in my work with Proximity Design Studio clients. I also mention a recent blog post from Alia Innovations that offers some prompt questions that I think can spark healthy dialogue within organizations. I’ve included the link in the show notes. As always, you are invited to join the Proximity Podcast Club, a growing community of people who are supporting one another through their own process. Message me on LinkedIn and I will send you the invitation.

Why Foster Parents Stop Fostering

On this week’s podcast, we discuss some upcoming online conversations on self-sufficiency and navigating the holidays, The Imprint’s “Born of History” series, and more information on the Biden administration’s interest in updating a key piece of the Family First Prevention Services Act.

Kerrie Lonard, Child Advocate for the State of Kansas, joins us to talk about an interesting survey her office did over the summer to learn more about the nature of why foster parents stop fostering.

Reading Room

Free Online Event!

Getting to Self Sufficiency: Helping Foster Youth Thrive as Young Adults

Sponsored by Binti

Free Online Event!

Redefining Holidays: How to Navigate Triggering Times

Born of History: A Tulalip Youth’s Journey to Indigenize Child Welfare

Biden Team Seeks More Input on Family First Act Process

Listening Session on the proposed revisions to the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse Handbook

Foster Parenting in Kansas: The voices behind foster home closures and lessons to be learned