I have dealt with Child Protection Services (CPS) with my two children for over two and a half years because of allegations of abuse and neglect. The claims of abuse and neglect came after I brought my youngest son to the hospital asking for medical help because he was having a difficult time gaining weight. The hospital conducted a full body exam on my two-month-old child without me present. As a result of finding a broken bone, they placed both of my kids on a 72-hour police hold. Nobody would help me. A young Black mother asking for help for her mixed-race child was a problem to them.
I was vulnerable two years ago as I grew up in foster care myself. I did not know anything about the law or know how to speak up for myself. I did not find my voice until I met the founder of Freedom From the Streets and got hired as my own boss in February 2020 to help other parents who are involved with CPS. My lived experience of being homeless and involvement with CPS prompted me to further educate myself and go towards the program that I choose. I am studying criminal justice at American InterContinental University because I want to be a child protection attorney for low-income parents. When I graduate from this program, I am hoping to be a voice and continue to be the advocate I need to be to help other families keep their children.
Finally, by the grace of God and Freedom From the Streets, I finally got my two children back in January. I am hopeful that my case will close this year. Being involved with child protection makes it difficult to see what I am able to do with my bachelor’s degree after I graduate because I now have a felony on my record. They tricked me into thinking if I plead guilty to a lesser charge, I could get all other charges they were trying to pin on me dismissed and get my children back. Even though I have my kids back, this felony on my record does not allow me to find employment that involves working with kids. To this day, I am having trouble finding employers who will hire me. Child protection affects low-income families and does not strengthen the families, but, rather, fails them.
Kelis Houston, the founder of Village Arms, is doing a wonderful job at amplifying Black and brown families and helping them find their voice. She is trying to get a bill passed called the African American Family Preservation Act to ensure that families are staying together. Studies from Hennepin County have shown that Black children are 5.5 times more likely to be removed from homes than white children are. According to Houston, Black and brown children are also taken due to the stereotypes of Black parents as abusive or doing drugs.
Child welfare is not always doing the best it can to protect children who need to be protected. I need other parents, especially Black and brown parents, to not be afraid to tell their stories so we can fight against Child Protection Services together and change the policies and laws at the state and federal levels. Nothing will change if we stay silent. We must build up our confidence and come together as one to fight systemic racism. The goal is to create a diversion program for parents who want to change the policies of how social workers treat their families.
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