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Child and Family Strengthening Systems (May 2024 CTIPP CAN)

In honor of May being Foster Care Month, our May 15th CTIPP CAN call discussed the history of funding and its impact on child and family strengthening systems.

CTIPP team member Antron McCullough shared his lived experiences and expertise surrounding foster care with our network during this call. Budget decisions greatly impact systems, and we discussed how funding can create support programs, resources, and services for children, teens, young adults, and families as a whole.

Our current systems are inefficient and are riddled with historical legacies of structural racism and oppression, and we want to empower advocates and decision-makers to promote healing and build a society where trauma doesn't have a ripple effect during the lifespan of our nation's young people and across future generations.


00:00:07Um, appreciate everyone being here for the May 2024 CTIPP CAN call. Uh, we're we're really looking forward to this call. Um, to let you all know up front. Uh, as you saw when you registered for the call, this was supposed to be between Antron and Prudence from the, uh, ABA American Bar Association. Unfortunately, Prudence was not able to make it today. We found out very, uh, late. She is okay. And we are looking forward to rescheduling that full call today where she would cover the, uh, legal basis, um, around, uh, child welfare system policies that have built in structural racism. And Antron is looking at the economic realities of, um, you know, the child welfare systems as we work to promote, uh, advocacy. And we know that there is so much advocacy around trauma informed changes to child and family strengthening systems, uh, broadly. And, you know, we are excited for that call. Wanted to let you all know up front, um, that prudence won't be able to join, but we are so excited for, uh, Antron to be able to present, uh, on his expertise and, uh, you know, both both learned and lived and professional and personal and everything that he's brought to see tips so far on the team. Um, and we know that there's so much more to come. And so welcome, all of you. Uh, recognizing that it's foster care month as well as mental Health month. And so mental health Awareness month. And so just want to give, give warm welcomes and a lot of love to everybody on the call. But that's enough for me. So, Antron, I turn it over to you and it's all yours from here.

00:02:57 I'm so happy to have all of you here this afternoon. And so what I'm really going to be discussing and presenting on today is talking a little bit about my dissertation and my studies in academia, but how it relates to the bulk secure system, as well as how it relates to, uh, trauma in the economic portion of child welfare. Um, I am the director of engagement and empowerment here at the Campaign for Trauma Informed Policy and Practice. As all of you know, as CTIPP. Um, I've been here since September 1st, and this has been great being able to join this organization and really to just kind of, um, fit into the groups and be able to give this presentation to you all today. Um, I will start off by giving a little bit of background information about myself. Uh, my undergraduate degree, um, all my degrees really are in business, my undergrad and management. I have an MBA, and I'm currently again working on my DBA, which is a doctorate in business administration. Uh, however, I wanted to be able to lean onto something that I'm very passionate about, and so I wanted it to be something that's around on welfare. I grew up in the foster care system and pretty much my entire life, um, foster care, adoption and failed adoption and then place back into the foster care system. And so seeing some of the challenges that I went through while I was in the system, I wanted to be able to advocate for individuals once I aged out at the age of 18. And so with this degree, uh, this doctorate degree, although it's in business, the financing and the funding structures and things surrounding around child welfare, um, because originally my committee members said that it sounds more like a social science, uh, than it does a business degree, but I had to explain to them that role funding and leadership structures, that's considered a business domain. And all of them did agree. Um, I have been working half of my life actually, now within child welfare system. Um, but more so around advocacy and policy, uh, as both an employment and a consultant. Um, I do some consulting work outside of KTP with NHSN, which is the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Um, I'm based out of Florida. However, I'm currently in Bethesda, Maryland this week, um, attending their ANC, which is their all network conference. Um, and then I also have ten plus years of working in higher education. So although I work in higher education, my degrees are in business. And I have that lived experience of growing up in the system. All of it really kind of marries in it ties together in this presentation and I'll explain, um, here. So my title of my dissertation was looking at the relationship between the services received and the funds spent per capita on youth for child welfare programs while they're in the system. And so understanding that the budget is really the initial factor, um, for the planning of inflows. Right. So we're looking at people, capital and goods. Um, and then from the organization standpoint, it's the outflows looking at those products, those services and those social contributions. And so those goals are set in place from a really strategic plan to the level of the decision making process, and which research kind of describes it as the process of those managers being able to make sure that the resources are secured and that they're adequate and that they're productive, and that you're really able to achieve the overall organization's mission. And so what that means is that the sphere of the budgeting process, that it may stretch from being able to develop small plans to more extensive plans within a system. Right. And so a vital issue to really consider is if the organization's goals and employees motivation, uh, they're set aligned, is that match up. And so to meet these goals are aligned individually or as a unit as a whole as one. And so if that desired decision is consensual, then what that means is that the information is shared, um, that opinions have informed. But however, both the organization and the individual's decisions are somewhat aligned in nature. And so while going through and looking at my dissertation and really coming up with, you know, what is the problem that's being faced, what is the challenge that's being had? And what I was able to look and research and find out is that the system itself, that's a multi-billion dollar industry, right? Where the agencies, they're really working with different individuals across the United States to provide the funding that's needed, those who need it, um, or each agency within child welfare, understanding that they are unique and the way that they're the way that they operate and some of the funds that are provided to such programs such as foster care, adoption assistance, or independent living also call IO programs, which I'll talk about that a little bit later. I had the privilege of being able to be a part of those IO programs, but the decision making process being faced by case managers of finance managers to really achieve success, it can be a daunting task, um, where, you know, they may overlook some specific steps within the process. Um, such as maybe they don't have enough funds really to support an individual's need. And so those services are provided to those of you that need them. Um, the most substantial amount of the funding really comes from the federal government. And so it comes it comes through federal reimbursements for grants and in programs such as foster care. And so although. Many states do receive government funding for that purpose. Some of those, uh, some of those branded, um, it's saying, excuse me, it's title 40, some of that funding. Um, in some ways those waivers are flexible. Uh, that can be used for child welfare. Um, and then other ways the federal government really spending that amount of money that they use to reimburse states for that portion of their annual foster care expenditures. And so, while growing up in the system and seeing some of the services that provided me, I was able to understand that the services were intended to provide that temporary and safe alternatives for individuals or youth, um, who have been abused or neglected until such a time where they can be placed, um, into other permanent homes or back with their families. And so those federal funds being authorized under title 40 of a Social Security at are paid to states, um, sometimes they are uncapped entitlement um basis meaning that any individual that's qualifying that has a qualifying expenditure by state will potentially be reimbursed or matched, uh, without limit. And so definitions of what those expenses qualify for, whether reimbursements qualify for all those are really laid out within the regulations and the policies and interpretations and how that's being developed. Importance of this study, other than wanting to make sure that if services and resources are being provided to youth, is wanting to really see those successful outcomes and what those outcomes look like, there can be a number of individuals who are in the system that may have similar services that are provided to them, but the outcomes are different from their peers, and whether they're living in the same state or the same region or the same district. And so social work budgeting can be quite complicated, right? Due to the different funding streams for the federal, state as well as the local level with the finances, the money that's coming out. And as we really looked at the current financial structures, it's really connected to the old age with families and dependent children programs. Some historical data that shows that rather than more pragmatic reasons, the administration people were proclaiming those funds under title four, which is somewhat burdensome. Um, is currently is is highly variable across different states and the cost of child welfare system as a whole, as different agencies start to claim higher amounts of federal funding for a child. But however, they do not necessarily perform, um, better or have better outcomes for those who are claiming less funding. Right. And so that kind of funding structure really is inflexible. Um, and there's an emphasis on foster care, uh, more specifically payments that look at things such as preventive services, um, that looks at the financing structure, not really being able to keep up with the pace of the changing child welfare system as a whole. And so looking at those title four funds, as little has changed from its inception, um, and that's dating all the way back to the 1980s. So even before I was born. Right, um, until the passage of time, up until the Adoption and Safe Families Act, uh, which was put in place in 1997. Um, so with that act, Congress we really wanted to do is they want to respond to those concerns that youth were far too often left in unsafe, um, situations. Um, so while excessive and inappropriate rehabilitation efforts were made with their families, it was also important that they address that there was at least a somewhat perceived reluctance on the part of agencies and judges who want to seek that termination of parental rights and adoptions in a timely fashion when unit reunification, uh, those efforts were unsuccessful. So really looking at how the funding structures were, but also understanding that judges and other agencies not necessarily wanting to have youth to go back into their homes right away, but also looking at there's not enough funding that's coming out or there's not enough resources that's being provided to, um, to maintain and be sustainable over time. And so when providing these services, uh, both the federal and the state government, um, our assets within the process, um, much of the responsibility of both private and public agencies really comes down to federal and state government funding and what those initiatives look like. So the major appeal going back to title four, equal learning really has always been just that as an entitlement. Um, funding levels were supposed to adjust automatically to respond to the changes in the needs as representatives by the states. However, that annual discretion and appropriations were really necessary to be able to accommodate those changes in those circumstances. Um, such a large population of youth who were entering into the foster care system. And so what happened is those automatic adjustments, features of the entitlement structure really remained a strength. However, only as long as they really responded appropriately, equitably to factors that reflect the true changes in needs that were able to promote the well-being of the youth and families that work needs. And looking at some of the challenges here, um, in order for those agencies to receive those federal funds, um, states really were required to determine eligibility, and they had to document the expenditures made on behalf of eligible children. So states really vary widely within their approach and how they were able to claim those funds. And so some of my conservative in their claims, um, where they only counted the youth who were eligible placements and defining administrative costs, uh, more at a narrow pace, while others were a little bit more aggressive and more skilled in the administration process. Um, that was necessary to be able to adjust supply, needing and having more funds and more claims. And so what that ended up doing is not all states have the financial means or the budgetary, uh, inclination to be able to invest in that full array of foster care related services. Um, with the federal government and their financial participation that was being given or that was available to them. And so the result of that was different approaches and a really complex pattern of title 40, uh, claims being able to cover a great range of funding levels. Um, however, there were still disparities within that, within those claims. And so it was very wide and it was lacking, um, and it really undermined the rationale for how the federal government is looking for individuals to claim under the rules and the guidelines that they had provided. There are many types of different services that we see within child welfare and within the foster care system. Um, the administration for children with families, uh, they require states to submit yearly plans to the Department of Health and Human Services and for their expenditures on those social work type programs. And so, by law, these reports, uh, sent off to committees, uh, within the House of Representatives, within the Senate Finance Committee. And once all of those totals are gathered together, then for that plan spending and all of that information is collected, and then, um, HHS they combine the data and they send it off to the individual that works for the safe and stable family program for that act. Uh, also known as s p s s f. And so the action that takes place within those funds, um, looking at somewhat of a subpart. So, um, title for the support one of the act as well as subpart two of that act that really assigns the expenditures by service categories. So according to what different states need. Um, and so some of those programs, as we're seeing here now on the screen or looking at the protection and promotion of individuals in child welfare, um, preventing child abuse and child neglect, being able to support at risk families by providing the services that allow you to stay in their homes or return to their homes on time, uh, once safe and appropriate measures are taken. Because remember what the earlier we spoke about that the foster care system was not put in place as a permanent solution for youth. So being able to make sure that they're able to return back to, um, their, their parents or their families or, or guardians, but making sure that if they are returning that we are putting in safe and appropriate measures, that those are being taken, but also looking at different things such as a promotion of safe houses, uh, permanency, and then the overall well-being of individuals who end up in the foster care system or with adoptive families, and being able to provide training to those individuals. All of the personal development novel and but also not just providing the training, but continuing to support them and to be able to ensure them a well qualified, uh, child welfare workforce. And so each state, they really have a flexibility to spend a pause on resources and services that promote services for those programs. So the funding is dispersed, and then it's authorized through the guidelines that are set from the federal government legislation appropriation process. But once those funds are distributed to those local agencies, then case managers or finance managers, they're the individuals who decide on how funds are used. So looking back at some reports and some studies taking my specific state, for instance, here in the state of Florida and a study that was done some years ago, uh, to show that there is about 1.278 billion in child welfare spending. So that was over 730 million that was spent from the federal government, and more than 540 million that was spent from state funds, while we had about 500,000 that was spent at the local level. One of the things that we see was that protective services were the number one services that agencies provide, um, they use the cost of protective services four times more than the amount of the next service listed, which is looking at family preservation, being able to preserve those families and keep them as one. A lot of times, depending on how many youth are in a home, get placed into the foster care system. They end up getting lost because some of the family members are going to one home, some are going to group homes. Some of them may either be going to a different region, or a different district, or a different county outside of that. And so being able to have that family preservation is very important. And so looking at some more reports and some more studies that from a few years back, what they really displayed is that within a certain amount of physical years, that protective services and family preservation are still the groups that are most focused on by agencies back then. And that still tends to be the case today where they haven't gone away from that. Um, the program's purpose is, uh, what they do is provide the means for those states to really create and produce. Coordinated programs of community based services that support the preservation of families, along with the unification efforts and promoting towards adoption services. If you cannot have that access back, back in with their families or a and or nobody. And so that act that we were talking about a little bit earlier states that agencies who used the central portion of um, of the Savings Able Families program funds um, towards those four categories, really of service at 20%, while no more than 10% can be used towards administrative costs. So within the administration of those different agencies, um, where the report divides those categories into the percentage of cost of funds, um, that states plan to implement the full plans. And so some of those programs were crisis intervention, which was the most significant category, um, in which funds were allocated, followed by prevention and support services for family, for families. And so those programs with the next highest percentage included in the reunification and services for adoptions. And so the state spending budgets during those years really show, um, really showed a pattern and there was minimal changes that they were seeing in between those several years. But, um, the data that was collected. And so those programs displayed why they really needed the funding and why they needed to be able to provide these different services, these different social services. And even with 10% of the funds being used towards administrative costs, the state's focus was still more so on delivering those resources safely. Um, again, that permanency and that, well, being, uh, young adults, uh, youth, children and families who are needing that help. However, there's still a lack of funding and continued budget cuts for agency. So what happens then is this really impacts the budget decision making process of those case managers or those finance managers in organizations when they're trying to distribute the funds through different services that are needed. So being able to understand that some of the services that are provided, they might not be in a certain area. So you can't give to those services or the funds might not be provided. All those services is there. And so the once again, they still can't receive the services that they need. So while going through in doing my dissertation, I have my main question. And then I had several other questions that I wanted to ask. Um, however, anyone who's done in dissertation, who's in a PhD or anatomical program, you will hear that your committee members tell you that the best dissertation is a dissertation, right? So you can't try to save the world all at once. And so these are three of the questions that I was asking myself. However, we're going to look a little bit more at these four questions right here. So having the overall question about the funding structures that are getting per capita, uh, per capita for youth, um, for those programs and looking at the outcomes, but even more so looking at these more specific questions right here. Is there a relationship between those total funds that are spent um, towards different programs, um, and the youth population in each state who are under the age of 18? Uh, is there a relationship between the funds and prevention support services and the number of youth enter into foster care during a specific fiscal year? Is there a is there a relationship between funds spent on family reunification services and youth the age out on the child welfare system? And then is there a relationship between funds spent on family reunification services and those who are placed in group homes or institutions? So earlier you heard me speak a little bit about youth who may have the same opportunities, may have the same services and resources that are available. However, they may live in a different area where that also may not be able to get them to those specific services that they need, or the service may be there, but the funding isn't there for the you be able to receive those different services. And so once again, these were the research questions that I kind of looked at a little bit more closely to. And as I was looking, my hypothesis is that there was 1 or 2 things. Right. Is that if there is, um, that there is either no relationship in the budget decision making process with splitting those services, um, that's received and the funds spent uh, per capita on youth or child welfare program, or there is a relationship, um, between those funds that are spent and youth outcomes on the services that they received while they are currently in the system. While going through and doing the research. And let me just say this. Here's what I'm thinking about it. Unfortunately, this PowerPoint presentation, it won't be available right now at this time, only because I am waiting on my final defense. And once I completed my final defense, then I can actually publish the information. I can publish the data. Um, and then at that point in time, we can circle back around and I can provide this, um, this information to everyone who would like to take a little bit of a closer look at it. Um, I didn't look too close into the demographics, uh, logged in as research. However, the data analysis, really other research dish, uh, showed that demographic information, such as the number of units in care by gender, um, and the age of the youth, 1 to 5 up into um, 16 to 20, and then a percentage of youth from 0 to 100% of youth work in child welfare. Uh, however, specific demographics, they weren't used to conduct the the overall analysis of the research that I was doing. And so what I did was I did a cluster analysis. I just took the groups of different individuals. And again, I won't really go into the numbers and the findings of the research that I found, but it's very interesting to take a look at and see. And so what that cluster analysis, what that really does is it just really is clusters of groups within similar characteristics meaning to group them into clusters. Right. So an example would be, uh, if you were watching a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu, right. And that streaming service is really grabbing your data on the minutes. Uh, what individuals watch the total viewing sessions monthly and the number of unique shows that they watched, and they use a cluster analysis, really to identify the usage on where to spend those advertising dollars. So similar. I don't know about individuals with androids, but it would be similar to individuals who have iPhones. Um, for me, every Sunday I received an update at the same time that says, hey, you spend this many hours on your phone per day. This is what the average this is what, um, this is what you spend the most time on, on these different apps, etc., etc.. And so organizations, companies, they tend to look at that and need to know, okay, where do we want to spend advertising. So the same thing with this, just looking at a cluster analysis and being able to group different clusters together. And so while using that analysis uh, for this group, um, for states looking at the top, um, the top and bottom, um, 10% in the middle, 80%, then I was able to take a look at the average of the funds that were being allocated, using about four years worth of data for different services that were given. And the regression was really weighted according to the sample size that I was able to use. So take for instance, uh, the first push then that had the top 10%. That paid out almost 900 million, while the bottom 10%, um, allocating about 300 million, which that really showed about a 3 to 1 ratio. Right. And for the middle 80% of the states that were providing services, the analysis really displayed a pretty linear proportion, um, throughout each of the questions. And it was pretty consistent for each year. And so going back to the questions, uh, the hypothesis, uh, a couple of slides ago, and the research that we were able to find was that we actually we would accept that, yes, there is some type of correlation, um, within the funds that are being spent on you. But also understanding that in any research we don't always have our assumptions and there's always going to be limitations to the research. Right. So it's important to consider that anytime you can do research on a smaller scale, such as in a specific region or state, it may yield different results than what it is on a national scale. Because that's what I did. I took the national scale of the different states. And so therefore, the research that I was able to conduct in different contexts is valuable to being able to understand how funding decisions impact youth in a child welfare system. So overall, in my study, it was able to highlight the importance of considering the impact of the budget decision making while in child welfare. And it really shed light on how agencies can help, sort of can help make those services available to you. And so hopefully this study will encourage that future research to be able to continue to improve the lives of youth and families who end up in the system, and being able to examine the effectiveness of child welfare programs and services that are provided in states with different funding levels. That's able to really determine where there's a relationship between the funding allocation and youth outcomes in the child welfare system. And so my findings, what they did was they really were able to highlight the need for further research, to examine the factors that were able to really contribute to these disparities and how they can be addressed. Remember, I said that the best dissertation has a finished dissertation, and so I was able to highlight some of what I found, but further research can be done. Will I do it maybe at some point in time. But once this is published, other individuals can actually go and grab this research and utilize it, and also come up with different analyzes of what they were able to, what they were able to find. And so, for example, uh, looking at further research, um, to really explore the relationship between state policies, right, and funding priorities, what's the priority depending on that state or that region as well? As we talked about the accessibility of the resources and the quality, uh, child welfare services that are being provided. And so additionally, the research could examine the impact of funding fluctuations. We're really being able to understand that on the well-being of youth and families, that the need and identity is strategies to really ensure that consensus consistency within funding allocations that are given. And so now I'm going to the second part. I'm going to talk about a little bit about my lived experience. Um, again, as I spoke a little bit earlier, I was in foster care, I was adopted, I had a bill adoption. And then I returned back into the foster care system until I aged out at the age of 18. So many individuals in who end up in the system believe that with more flexible flexibility in the funding that states can really develop additional resources for preventative and reunification services, where you will have better outcomes for those youth and those families. So that really can be achieved. And so a great deal of that really has changed in the world of child welfare since the philosophy of full names have been established. Um, the programs initially created dating back to 1961. However, it really has continued without major revision to its financial structures. And so what has happened since then is the result in funding. Funding streams seriously has been really a missed mismatch, um, to current program needs and the goals of the child welfare system and being able to improve the safety and diplomacy and the well-being of the youth and families that are being served. And so for individuals like myself who grew up in the system, one of the things that I did was when I aged out at the age of 18, I wanted to see change. I wanted to be able to advocate for myself, um, but not just for myself, but for others, because now I am out of the system. But I know I still have my peers who will come up in the system after me. And I thought about, what can I do, you know, how can I have a voice? Because during that time, a lot of the policies and things that are in place, individuals who have that lived experience, that are individuals who are going through those specific changes within their lives, they don't have a safe. So the knowledge is still, hey, this is what it is. Um, this is the policies that we have to follow. These are the resources we give you or we don't have funds for those resources or we apologize. And so while growing up in the system, um, had its, uh, had its challenges for me, I always looked at plan B, was enforcing plan A and plan A was coming out successful. No matter what the situation is, no matter what the challenge was that I end up facing. So with those challenges that I ended up facing, I used that to really motivate myself and to say, you know, I don't want to use the system as it will as a reason for me to do poorly. Right? Uh, one of the main things that I always talked about is I never wanted to be another statistic. However, I end up being another statistic. But on the more positive side, um, I was that individual who a male who came out of the foster care system, not only just the male, but a black male who came out of the foster care system, who was going to college, um, who ended up graduating college. So out of all my foster brothers and sisters, out of all my adopted brothers and sisters, the first and only one to graduate out of 11 of us, right. And so although my peers, those adopted and foster family members, although they had those same some of those same resources at some of these same opportunities that I had, what made me successful and what was the challenge that they end up facing where they weren't able to build as much success for themselves. And a lot of that has to deal with. And I'm going to stop sharing my screen here.

00:35:50And so a lot of that really had to do with the trauma that some of those individuals space. Right. And until I got into this work with the TSA and then being able to really understand trauma and what that looked like and the challenges I was facing for me. Individuals have just asked the question, well, why you and why not them? And so once you really start to understand the impact of trauma and how it's really intricately linked to child welfare and being able to understand significantly, you know, being able to influence the wellbeing and development and future prospects of youth involved within the system. And being able to understand that relationship really is crucial for being able to develop effective intervention and support systems for those youths. And so looking at some of those ways, when we talk about the prevalence of trauma within child welfare populations, those youth who are in the system oftentimes have higher exposure to traumatic experience compared to their peers. Right. Some of the things that we spoke about earlier is that abuse, whether it's physical, sexual or emotional, many youth who enter into the system do or is due to experience of abuse, which inherently is traumatic. Right or neglect, abuse, neglect. Those are two of the larger things with bored youth who are entering into the system. So neglect where it really can be damaging it just as damaging as abuse. And it's very common. And for you to enter into the system or even witnessing violence, right? The exposure to domestic violence or community violence, it contributes to significant amounts of trauma and what an individual has lived through within their life, and especially at an early age. But then there's also that separation and loss, right? Being removed from your home and separated from family members can be deeply traumatic, especially for individuals where it's the only family that you've ever known. I tell people that I became a man at the age of 11, 11 years old, because. Oh, sorry. I tell individuals that I became a man at the age of 11 years old, and I tell them that is because I looked at the system that, hey, you know, when I was entering to the when I was going back into Bosnia from the adopted home that I was in, one of my adopted brothers who came with me, you know, I told them, I said, hey, these people are going to feed us. They're going to clothe us, and we're going to be okay. We're going to be all right. I'm going to be right there for you. Like, I'm going to do any and everything that I can to support you, not understanding that I would still have my own traumas in life that I would face later on down the road. I looked at it as a way of, hey, I need to help the individuals who are around me more than myself. And so that impact, when we're looking at trauma and on development, it really can profoundly affect a youth physical, emotional, their cognitive and their social development. You know, looking at that emotional regulation where you're someone who's experienced trauma, you know, you may have that difficulty being able to manage your emotions, um, which can lead to increase anxiety or depression or even aggression in some instances. And then we're looking at that cognitive development where trauma can impair a unique ability to really concentrate or process information or perform academically. Um, for me, luckily, I was able to perform pretty well in my academics, so much to the point where I cried because I had a B on my progress report. It wasn't even my report card, it was actually a B because again, I felt that plan B is enforcing plan A, and I had to be as successful as possible because I didn't know what was going to happen to me. By the time I turned 18 and was getting ready to age out of the system, I had those resources. I had those services that were there. However, I wasn't sure what the outcome would be. Although I was doing well in school and I was doing well at home as well. Right. And so some of those things that's also impacted, looking at the social relationship, right, for individuals who are traumatized, they may struggle with being able to form and maintain healthy relationships due to trust issues and attachment disorders. I know individuals who I've worked with in the past who've grown up in the foster care system, where they're so used to individuals leaving them that they choose not to make friends or they choose not to, uh, interact with certain individuals or they will interact with them for distance or only for a certain amount of time before they push them away because of that fear of of detachment from them. And so that also brings a lot of behavioral challenges for youth. Um, and trauma can manifest in various behavioral problems, aggression, um, youth who are traumatized might exhibit that aggressive behavior, and they're using that potentially as a defensive mechanism. Or it might be withdrawal. So again, how I talked about that detachment just now, some youth may become withdrawn and may be isolated. Even now as an adult. For me I'm okay with going out. I'm okay with doing things. But I also consider myself to be a homebody. So if I'm at home and you know, I'm just watching TV or I'm just relaxing, I'm okay with that. I don't necessarily have to go out and do things all the time. And that's something, you know, that that I've done for at this point for years now. Um, but then you also have youth that engage in such things, such as risk taking. Right. Um, where that traumatic experience and they might engage in those risky behaviors, you know, that includes like substance abuse. And they're using that to really be able to cope with the pain and the things that they're going through and what they're feeling. However, we know that there are some interventions, there are some support systems that's out there. And so really being able to address trauma within the system and really involves several key approaches, uh, making sure that we have trauma informed care. One of the things that we talk about here within our organization is having a trauma informed society all all across the United States, all across the world, even. Right. And so that approach really involves being able to understand and recognize and respond to the impacts and effects of all types of trauma. Right? It being able to emphasize the the physical, the physiological and the emotional safety for both youth and providers as well, and being able to really hope to build a sense of control and empowerment for the youth. Uh, but there's also having trainings for the caregivers and the caseworkers. I just so happen to have really great foster parents who were never trained. Well, I take the back. They were trained in foster care, but from the perspective of what they were doing, that's looking at other individuals who grew up in other. Foster homes. It's it wasn't the same. And so all though they were giving some training on how to be foster parents, making sure that we're training as many and everyone as possible on trauma and what that looks like. Right. So equipping those false appearance caseworkers, uh, other professionals with the knowledge about trauma and its impact and its effects, they're really assured that we're providing appropriate support in interventions, um, for those long term outcome outcomes and those learned or those long term outcome, being able to address, uh, trauma effectively is really crucial for youth to enter the system, because we're looking at their mental health, right. That early intervention might be able to mitigate that long term mental health consequences of trauma and being able to reduce the likelihood of issues such as PTSD or depression and anxiety. Um, another quick story. When I was when I moved from the adopted home back into foster care, I went to I went to go see a doctor. Um, I think it was about 2 or 3 days afterwards, and they placed me on antidepressant pills. And during that time, um, I remember my foster mom again. And this is why I say that, you know, they're trained to be false appearance, but something's just, you know, within them was more than just being foster parents, but actually looking at it as a looking at me as their child, but also not replacing who my biological parents were at that time. And so what my foster mom did was. I took. I took the antidepressant pills one day, and then after that she said no. She she stopped giving it to me. And I went back to the doctor about two months later and the doctor said, oh, you seem to be really happy, but, uh, I want to give you another 30 day supply. I want to wean you off the you know, I want to wean you off the pills slowly, but I want to give you another 30 days supply because they seem to be helping. And my foster mom said no, said the pills aren't helping. Said that he took them one day and I flushed them down the toilet. Because any youth who's been taken from the only family that they have ever known, they're going to be upset. They're going to be sad, they're going to be depressed, they're going to have anxiety. So them being able to look at that in the short term, I can only imagine within the long term outcomes. Had I stayed on something like that and become addicted to my own depression, instead of being able to have resources and services around me that were able to uplift me and put me in a different space. And so other a couple more additional long term outcomes, really looking at that educational achievement. Right. Again, I told you I cried for having a B on my progress report. And so being able to support you through been traumatized can really enhance their academic performance and increase their chances of being able to complete their education. Um, for me, I had a lot of mentors, a lot of individuals around me, my adopted excuse me, my foster dad. It was always talked about hard work. My foster mom, she was in education. So it was always, your education will get you far. And I remember even at some point, one of my mentors, you know, she told me, she said, Antron, you should apply to get into Harvard University. And my reaction was, well, I have so many scholarships here in the state of Florida. What if I get up there to a place like Harvard? And what if it doesn't go well, right? Then I'm back at square one because I'm an individual who's in the foster care system in different, different states, have different ages. So for here in the state of Florida, for me, during that time was at the age of 18. I'm out of the system, I'm out on my own. And so I told her, I said, I don't have anyone to turn to. What if I go up there and I do poorly? And she said, well, you can always call yourself a Harvard dropout. But I had to explain to her, A Harvard dropout only looks good to individuals who've done something significant, like Mark Zuckerberg or other individuals who create something significant for the world. But for them to be able to see my academic achievements and what I had done, but and being able to support me no matter what, um, decisions that I made during that time that also impacted another long term outcome being that life stability. Right. Um, that effective trauma care can really lead to more stable and more successful transitions into adulthood and being able to reduce the risk of homelessness and unemployment, as well as individuals who enter into the criminal justice system. Because we know that research has shown that many individuals who enter the criminal justice system at an early age, it impacts them as young adults and on into, um, on well on into their adult life, especially with things that they've been around, things that they have witnessed. And we don't want there to be a reoccurring trend of anything that's negative. However, that trauma that individuals that have seen, those challenges that they have faced can sometimes be long term outcomes that they struggle with and just kind of want to leave you here with today is I talk a little bit about that. I wanted to be a voice for the voiceless, for individuals who didn't have a voice or felt they didn't have a voice, and I wanted to be able to advocate for them. And so with some of the work that I'm currently doing right now for creating a youth advocacy guide, and although I'm creating that guide, I'm a little bit older. Um, and so I might be, you know, kind of far removed from some things, but not too far removed. But understand that all of this information and all of this research that I'm gathering, that I'm putting it together, that even with all of the knowledge that individuals who have that lived experience or who were living in that experience right now, they too may want to be able to advocate for themselves and be able to speak up for themselves, because I didn't get a chance to speak up for myself until I was 18. I went to the courthouse. The judge looked at me and he said, it looks like you're doing well in your academics. What is your plan? I'm going to go to school, okay. You're going to go to school. Are you going to be okay? I think I'm going to be alright. Right. Because I talked about I'm 18, I'm out on my own. I'm an adult now, so I have to make it work. No matter what. I have to achieve success no matter what. Failure is not an option. But even then, during that time where I was able to go and speak in front of a judge, it was all of a 2 or 3 minute conversation. But. It was not me being able to give, you know, any testimony or any impact of what I would like to see change within the system that came after the fact, where I started, where the organization, like I said, they kind of saw me as a success story. And so the newspaper wanted to write about me. And so while they were going back and forth about two weeks straight and I was giving them, you know, the story, and there was writing up the article, I made a joke and I said, you know, I'm coming here so much, you guys might as well hire me, right? And they ended up finding and creating a position for me. And at that time, it was a joke, and I didn't know that that would be my door to getting into this advocacy work that I've been doing. But once I got in, I was. Straightforward and saying, okay, you know, as a young kid at 18 years old, you have so many ideas and you want so many things to be done, but also not knowing, um, finding out a little bit later that there's a structure to, to a lot of things that you want to see done. Um, but getting in and saying, okay, well, what changes can I make? What impact can I make on child welfare and the community and individuals who, you know, are dealing with, um, trauma and these challenges that they're going through? And so one of the things that I talked about is just having normalcy, right? If I want to go next door and spend the night with a family member, anyone who's 18 or above, they have to be fingerprinted and has to go to the sheriff office, where a normal parent can just send their kid next door or send their kid down the street and say, hey, yeah, that's fine to have a sleepover, right? So understanding that there are policies and procedures that are in place to protect you, but also understanding that. We want somewhat of a normal life. We want to be able to advocate for themselves. And so with what I'm doing with building this youth advocacy series, we're going to be able to bring in those youth and really hear that youth voice and be able to hear that you perspective where I'm able to the research and everything that I've collected, I'm able to take a step back and then say, hey, I've collected this research. This is what it looks like. We want your input, we want your feedback, but also not getting too far along within the process where we've already kind of set goals of, okay, this is what we want. And then you've come in and they say, well, this is what you want, but this is what we need, right? So being able to really mobilize what trauma looks like from a youth perspective and being able to have them to advocate for themselves. Because in closing, I just want to say that when we're looking at trauma and we're wanting a trauma informed nation, right? And we're looking at things such as the foster care system, trauma really is a central concern within child welfare and within all aspects of our life. Right. And it really impacts the youth within the system. Um, and so being able to really just address trauma through informed care, um, appropriate interventions and comprehensive support really can significantly improve the well-being and the future prospects of youth who are placed into these vulnerable situations. So I would like to thank all of you for your time today. Um, as Jesse said earlier, unfortunately prudent, he was unable to make this call due to some unforeseen circumstances. However, she will present at another time and I will come back. And during that time, her and I will be able to actually present together. So, um, just once again, I want to thank all of you for being here today and for taking some time out to listen to me speak. And Jesse. I will turn it back over to you.

00:53:13Appreciated. Antron. Um, given you that you got some love in the chat. Appreciate you sharing everything you did. On a personal side, I mean so much. Your story uplifted the importance of relationships. And we know that healing happens in the context of healthy relationships over time. Um, reminded by some of what you talked about as the structural, uh, realities of the system that you've studied so deeply, which is so important as we move toward reform and trying to prevent as much as possible and intervene as much as possible and come in with trauma informed supports all over, um, you know, of some of what prudence will talk about. You mentioned 1961, and I was reminded when she talked about the Fleming rule that, you know, was leveraged to be able to start to separate families. And we know that while, um, you know, the ways in which structural racism is built in and, and oppression is built in to the system in so many ways and so looking forward to that fuller presentation. And just want to give you a quick shout out of what went on behind the scenes while you were at a at a conference for TSN right now. And, you know, we got some last minute news. You extended your presentation to build out a fuller presentation. I know how much work went into that. And so just want to say thank you. Um, you got a lot of thanks coming in the chat as well. I know that there was one question. If, you know, I, I just want to uplift really quickly. If you know. And Whitney, you may too. Um, are caseworkers trained family therapy or child and youth mental health, um, experts was a question that we got. Um, I don't think so. I know that it's state to state, but didn't know if you knew the answer to that.

00:55:02Uh, typically a person who is delivering therapy has to be a licensed psychotherapist. And while someone that may have chosen in part of their lives to be a licensed psychotherapist, usually there is a case management role that exists separately from that. So being therapeutic in presence but not necessarily delivering evidence based therapy. Protected title.

00:55:25Thank you. Whitney. Um, so, yeah, there's, um, there's there's so much more to do. We're thrilled and looking forward to bringing young people in and getting to share their stories to help shape systems with the youth advocacy work that you're leading and everything that you're doing, and so much more for everybody on the line who is an advocate, um, for child and family strengthening systems. We appreciate you and all of the work that you do, um, every day. And we look forward to continuing to build a movement that helps to transform systems. So that way we're economically as efficient moving forward to invest in our communities and individuals and families as best as possible in a holistic manner. And we are working to undo a lot of the structural and systemic harm that we know exists within systems. Um, as we continue to move forward and with our community advocacy network at Si tip, there's a wonderful community of folks all over the country. Growingly we have more and more folks all around the world who are doing this work at a variety of levels and just know from the bottom of our heart how much we appreciate each and every one of you. Um, and as we wrap up, I'm wondering, and I know that you said a lot. I don't want to put you on the spot here, but if there's anything else, uh, you want to share before we, uh, go off on the rest of our days.

00:56:50So I would just say, um, make sure for individuals, um, with this being foster, uh, foster care, uh, monthly mental health awareness month. So you make sure that you are taking care of your mental health. Um, take some time for you. Um, what I was always taught is that at least one day out of the month takes some time for you. So whether that's going on a walk, reading a book, um, going to the beach, going to a movie, but just take some time to really do something for yourself. And just once again, just really thank each and every one of you for being able to come out and attend today's session.



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