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To Protect New York’s Foster Youth, Child Welfare Workers Need Accountability

by Dineisha Brown

Implementing organizational change requires accountability. Driving an accountable organization requires effort, perseverance, and communication. It’s a responsibility of everyone in an organization to shuffle through the changes. Accountability is the next step in aligning development and taking action to set and cascade goals throughout the organization. Accountability is effectively teaching value. Accountability cannot be taken without first recognizing the problem, taking ownership, and improving the approach.

One change professionals that serve New York’s foster youth could make is to create a book of policies that focus on developing training that involves children. These policies can promote open communication by ensuring that a course of action is taken seriously with each concern and meeting. This requires listening attentively and creating a dialogue. I wish I had these options and alternatives during my experience in foster care.

Professionals need to receive trauma training to better understand the needs of the kids in these systems. This type of training gives the insight to help recognize the presence of symptoms and acknowledges the role trauma can play in people’s lives. Better education about it could assist in preventing, intervening, and treating it. It additionally helps to avoid re-traumatization.

Regarding my experience in some foster homes, there was a lack of stability and safety. Stability is a significant factor in a child’s development and is crucial to emotional stress and well-being. Professionals must thoroughly consider which placements will provide the proper support to a young person. When placements do not have healthy food resources, do not focus on strengths, or the appearance of the environment and support systems break down, it shows why the placement might not be working for the foster youth. Having accommodations or a second option where kids can choose from before being placed can be helpful for youth.

Foster children should have a resource space where they can get all benefits in one place. The state should create its haven to support foster youth. The comfort foster youth receive from safe spaces can fill them with inner strength to endure and overcome difficult circumstances. What compelled me to feel so passionate about this was feeling as if I had nowhere to go when the foster parent left or if it was an emergency. When foster parents leave or go out of town, the foster child should have a say on where they are placed because you want to ensure they are comfortable and all their needs are met. Havens that exist for foster youth need more resources. The mission of safe havens should be to provide safety, a healing space, advocacy, empowerment, and undivided support.

In addition to safe havens, planning for self-sufficiency and self-reliance is necessary. Leadership promotes organizational mission and goals and shows the way to achieve them by building on strengths and weaknesses and implementing incremental goals. Workshops are needed to prepare foster children to transition into adulthood. Every foster kid that ages out should also have housing before leaving foster care.

More charities like Lawyers for Children, which protect and educate kids on their legal rights by empowering them with the tools, support, and resources, are necessary. We need more organizations and programs that are for us and by us. We need more organizations and programs that genuinely care about the direct services they provide to foster youth and the knowledge they give, and understand the importance of having foster youth in the driver’s seat to create conversations and push initiatives that actually work.

Change can only happen if accountability is taken. Showing up and having the willingness to take action is the first step. Changing actions empowers you to acknowledge, accept, and then release the root cause. It identifies the critical root causes of issues that impact foster youth in New York and worldwide. It can and will be done; let’s take action!