James-Brown said the child welfare system “acknowledges its shortcomings” adding that it’s “under-resourced and isolated from other systems.” She said there are several remedies to address the needs of children and workers in the system: improving support services, understanding and reducing cultural bias, locating more relatives to provide permanent homes, increased use of technology to find parents, increased involvement of parents in planning and decision making, and increased use of community-based institutions.
With so many other issues dominating the national agenda — everything from the economy and the environment to Iraq and immigration — pushing for action on child welfare can seem fruitless. The CWLA has called for Congress to reestablish the White House Conference on Children and Youth, which was first held in 1909 and held every 10 years through 1970. Bipartisan legislation to resume the conference has languished in committee since early last year. The CWLA argues that the conference is important because few other events focus on children and families, and conferences are preceded by a year’s worth of state and local events that spark a national dialogue on recommendations to improve the lives of our most vulnerable children and families.
Last month, the Children’s Defense Fund issued its “State of America’s Children” report. A few years ago, Canada and the United States were tied for last in children’s welfare among industrialized nations. This year? The United States is dead last in relative child poverty, in the gap between rich and poor, in teen birth rates, and in child gun violence. “We have to figure out a way to make children a priority,” James-Brown said. “We need to focus on outcomes and innovation.”
If children really are our future, as the songwriters suggest, we must make a better investment in them; especially those who fall through the cracks into the child welfare system, where there isn’t much to laugh about.
Deron Snyder is a regular contributor to The Root.