2020 Child Welfare Primer Fuels Advocates to Change Futures for Children & Families

On March 9, 2020, Texas CASA hosted the 2020 Child Welfare Primer: Changing Advocacy to Change Futures, where we brought together members of the statewide CASA and child welfare community in Austin to network and learn. This year’s Primer focused on outcomes and strategies for advocacy when it comes to two populations: infants in their early years of foster care and older youth who are transitioning out of the system.

Dr. Prachi Shah, MD, Associate Professor at The University of Michigan, started us off in the morning with a deep dive into her extensive research on infants and toddlers and their developmental needs. She discussed the developmental milestones during this critical time, and stressed the importance of caregiver attachment and security.

Dr. Shah also spoke on trauma, and its impact on things like young children’s reactions, attachment and behavior.

“Not all wiggles are ADHD,” she said. “Sometimes the wiggles are worries, so we have to do a deeper dive.”

Attendees came away with new knowledge and strategies to better advocate for and support the needs of young children and their families.

Kristene Blackstone, Associate Commissioner for Child Protective Services (CPS), teed up the afternoon by speaking on CPS’s work to improve their support for older youth in foster care. Then, we had an afternoon panel presentation, facilitated by Erin Argue of Partnerships for Children, focused on how we can better prepare youth at risk of aging out.

Each year, approximately 1,200 youth age out of foster care in Texas. These youth face a number of challenges after exiting the state’s care, often at risk of experiencing homelessness, loss of health coverage, and the inability to secure employment. Youth panelist Devon shared amazing insight, specifically emphasizing how Supervised Independent Living (SIL) has made a difference for him.

“Most kids in foster care feel alone even though they’re surrounded by people,” Devon said. Supervised Independent Living, he said, gives young adults a chance to really be alone and find themselves.

The other panelists, Julie Baker from LifeWorks and Lacy Carr from Upbring, also offered great perspectives on how to ensure youth have a safe and supportive transition into young adulthood, outside of foster care.

Thank you to everyone who was able to join us for this event! It was a great day full of insight, engaging speakers and takeaways for advocating for children and families involved in the child welfare system.