Policy & Practice | Spring 2023

Question: What are the key outcomes of the REC, and how would you assess the overall impact of this joint effort in addressing systemic and racial inequalities in the child welfare system? Brandi: The overall impact of the REC is the heightened awareness of the disproportionalities and inequities within the child welfare system. We have created a platform that nurtures a growing confidence within Black and brown communities to voice their insights and concerns that lend to our continued learning. Community organizations have found a new sense of energy in their work, and through the REC, they have been able to form connections that inform our continued work. The REC is working to answer the questions, how can we support additional collabora tions? And what role do we play? Question: As you reflect on your work with the REC, what steps are you taking to sustain this partner ship in the long term to improve child welfare service delivery? Brandi: There are many facets to how we’re sustaining this work. I think a great way to sum it up is to say we’re building capacity through continued learning and development. We believe the more people we have in the system with the capacity to lead, take initiative, and facilitate deep-seeded, open, and reflective con versations that move us from thought into action, the more this work will become a part of our being. It’s no longer just an initiative, it’s the way we work. Question: For your peers who are earlier in their journey addressing racial and systemic inequalities in service delivery, what words of advice can you share with them based on your experiences and lessons learned? Brandi: Find your people. This is tough work, and not something done alone. Leadership buy-in is important and you have the capacity to lead where you are. From where you sit, how can you impact racial equity?Allow data to inform your work; data-driven methodology is key.

experience that allowed for networks to be established and additional col laboration to be formed. Question: The REC reflects the value of cross-sector partnerships. As you reflect on your collaboration with Care Portal, the University of Kansas, and others, what challenges have you faced as a group, and how did you overcome them? Brandi: The first step to over coming any challenge is having a clear purpose. Once the mission and vision for the collaborative were in place, we started looking at the realities of each organization and what barriers may have been in the way. Once we had that very honest and transparent discussion, we found that none of the barriers created a hard “no.” They were generating questions: What are our available resources? Who needs to be a part of the planning and organizing? What are the strengths of each of the organizations involved, and How do we play to those strengths? From there, we worked to answer those questions and, step-by step, we were able to move forward with our learning journey. Question: The REC has also engaged the criminal justice system through its learning series with judges. How did that partnership emerge, and how valuable is it to the work of DCF? Brandi: Through our learning journey, an article was shared by one of the core REC members about seven judges in Iowa who crafted four questions to ensure all measures were taken and all resources were exhausted before considering a rec ommendation to remove a child from their home. The REC was able to sponsor an event that invited two of those judges and Dr. Amelia Franck Meyer, whose work on the impact of removal on child development inspired the judges’ work. For DCF, the value of this work is immeasurable both within the col laborative and the agency. We are data driven, and the work and outcomes from these questions has brought validity and inspiration to our work in Kansas.

welfare system and then looking at how we move forward. The silver thread we carried throughout the learning journey was, “From where you sit, how can you impact racial equity?” It’s an empowering question that allows people to see that they can lead from whatever position they hold, from someone who grew up in the foster care system and is now a com munity advocate to someone holding a high-ranking title who has authority within the system. This approach also served as the theme for our in-person symposium in April 2022. Throughout the learning journey, we created communication platforms for individuals to share their insights and experience. Padlet is a tool we used during the lectures to collect comments and insights from partici pants. We have hundreds of data points from Padlet that are currently being analyzed and compiled. Feedback collected from our series led to learning about a participant who shared their story about being adopted into a family that didn’t share the same race. Something as seem ingly simple as haircare products and hair maintenance became a source of awareness for this person. They have since learned how to properly manage their hair! This person was featured at the in-person symposium, and it was amazing to witness the confidence that overcame them as they discovered a new sense of self. The REC also hosted Courageous Conversations, speaking on a variety of topics related to child welfare. One of our guests was an individual who grew up in the foster care system and aged out. They made it their mission to bring awareness to youth and their lived experience, creating a platform for them to have a voice. That conversation has led to an ongoing partnership in the REC in our con tinued work together. After the symposium, the REC also hosted a “Day at the Capitol” in Topeka. We invited organizations that are doing the work, representing those affected by the child welfare system, to come and share what they’re doing. It was an eye-opening

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