Waln Brown


“It Takes One to Know One”: The Need for Alumni Leadership in Child Welfare

“You’re an orphan, right?  Do you think I’d know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are because I read Oliver Twist?  Does that encapsulate you?”


Protecting the Mental Health of Foster Youth

Devastating life events such as chronic family dysfunction, abuse and neglect, multiple placements, poor decisions by the court or mistreatment by court-appointed caregivers take a toll on the immature mind. To cope, we may withdraw into a prickly shell to protect our minds from the confusion and our hearts from the pain.


How One Good Administrative Decision Can Reclaim a Child’s Life

Second chances can sometimes right a poor administrative decision. Such was the case for this confused teenager. Two months after returning home from the state hospital, he quit attending school. After all, his immature mind reasoned, it’s legal to quit school at 16 and, besides, he just didn’t have the brains or the interest.


How One Bad Administrative Decision Can Derail a Child’s Life

A lifetime ago, a confused 12-year-old boy finally came unraveled. The accidental offspring of a fling between a high school junior and her older band leader boyfriend, he had spent far too long overhearing his parents’ shouting matches.


The Psychological Consequences of Separating Siblings in Foster Care

The psychological stigma associated with being labeled an “orphan,” “foster child,” “ward of the court” or “at-risk youth” can play havoc with one’s self-esteem. The terms used to describe our lowly social status say that we are less than other kids: less fortunate, less worthy, less good, less capable, less important, less lovable … less almost everything.


Why Do Government Lawyers Run the Child Welfare System?

The foster care alumni movement asserts that child welfare professionals must meet increasingly higher standards of knowledge the more they influence the lives of at-risk youth. This is especially true for non-alumni whose decisions affect the most foster children.


    Who Says Kinship Care is a “Best Practice?” Not These Alumni!

    Without due consideration for alumni feedback, politicians, judges, social workers and other policymakers have deemed kinship care a “best practice.” But what if this seemingly logical assumption is not a panacea at all, but, rather, another danger zone; further evidence of the necessity of listening to what alumni know from personal experience?


    Foster Families or Orphanages: What do Alumni Say?

    Prior to President Teddy Roosevelt’s 1909 White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children, institutional placement was considered the “best method” of caring for dependent youth. Boards of trustees comprised of community leaders volunteered to oversee the operation of these institutions.


    A History of Exploiting America’s Foster Youth: Part Three

    Note: This is part three of a three-part look by columnists and former foster youth Waln Brown and John Seita about the darker side of foster care in America. Click here to read Part One, and click here to read Part Two.