Policy & Practice | Spring 2023

race equity champions

In this interview series on race equity, APHSA shares stories of state and local human services leaders working to embed a race equity lens into their policies, programs, and organizational culture. In this edition, APHSA highlights the Kansas Racial Equity Collaborative, an innovative, cross-sector partnership with the Kansas Department for Children and Families, the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, and CarePortal, addressing the systemic and racial inequalities in the child welfare system. Brandi Turner, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer at Kansas Department for Children and Families, has been a part of this effort and graciously agreed to share her insights.

inequities in the child welfare system and to define the problem through a shared language and understanding, so we can all advocate for racial equity. Through a collaborative effort, our mission is to pursue racial equity by bringing together the child welfare workforce and mandated reporters to build shared multidisciplinary knowl edge and accountability in achieving equitable outcomes for children and families of color within the child welfare system. Question: A key objective of the REC lies in identifying the root cause of systemic inequalities through community engagement, including people with lived experience in the foster care system. Can you talk about how you have engaged them through the REC? Brandi: Our work began with a four-part series, Learning Journey, crafted to bring awareness and then move us, as a state, into action. Our first lecture topic was historical context of structural racism and current

Director for DCF and Abby Fry, formerly the Regional Manager for CarePortal, met for coffee one day and a conversation that started off with just a check-in transitioned into a discus sion on the need to bring awareness of the inequities in the child welfare system. That conversation sparked a statewide learning journey. From there, a planning committee was formed, comprised of DCF Regional Director, Shanelle Dupree; DCF Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Brandi Turner; CarePortal Regional Manager, Abby Fry; CarePortal Child and Family Advocate, Ashley Smith; University of Kansas School of Social Welfare Doctoral Student, Kelechi Wright; Associate Researcher, Dr. Pegah Naemi Jimenez; Associate Professor, PhD Program Director, Dr. Becci Akin; and University of Kansas School of Social Welfare Project Manager for Kansas Strong for Children and Families, Sarah McCall. Together we make up the REC. Our vision is a statewide effort to understand the history of racial

Question: The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) has been very intentional in iden tifying new opportunities and strategies to address the existing systemic inequalities in the child welfare system and the Racial Equity Collaborative (REC) has emerged as a solid opportunity to tackle this enduring barrier. Can you talk more about DCF’s vision to achieve an equitable child welfare system and how your department become REC’s partner? Brandi Turner: In 2019, DCF released a strategic plan with six pillars that outline an action plan. One of the six pillars is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and it’s our vision to build an intentional agency char acter around DEI. Accompanying the strategy plan is a “What We Believe” document, that in summary, states we believe in the capacity of people and value their voice and lived experience. We value our community and the people that make them unique, and we lead with authenticity, curiosity, and respect. Our strategic plan, core

day implications. Then we addressed racial inequities from an early childhood edu cation perspective. The next two lectures tackled implica tions that inform how we can move into action, starting with debunking myths cir culating through the child

values, and mission set DCF up to be a valuable

Interested in learning more? Visit APHSA’s Call to Action page (http://bit.ly/APHSA_Action) for resources and tools to advance race equity. This page will continue to be built out as we share additional voices through our race equity interview series and more.

partner in what would soon follow, which is the creation of the REC. Shanelle Dupree, the Kansas City Regional

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