Using his own story as a child in and out of foster care and his experience as a kinship care provider to a niece and nephew, Adrian McLemore urged attendees at the Center on Children and the Law’s spring conference to “look at families from a strengths-based approach,” and set aside assumptions that certain races are more prone to violence or less likely to take care of their kids.
McLemore, a policy analyst, national strategic consultant, program officer and child welfare expert, gave the opening plenary on April 5. The gathering of lawyers, judges, social workers and advocates, held in Tysons Corner, Virginia, explored developments in the children’s law field, particularly the impact and implications of COVID-19 for children and families and racial equity in child welfare cases. McLemore’s presentation was one example of how the meeting aimed to “share power” with people who have experience living in the child welfare system.
McLemore challenged attendees to see the humanity in those who are accused of mistreating their children and to define them by “their aspirations and contributions rather than their challenges.” One way to “flip the narrative,” he said, is to look at ways in which the child welfare system is punitive and to replace those with opportunities for families to show their strengths. When families buy into what is needed to achieve reunification, outcomes improve, he said.
Other speakers at the conference included Kimberly Waller, associate commissioner for the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Andrea Elliott, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of “Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City.”
The meeting provided training and networking opportunities for child law professionals who advocate for children, parents, agencies and kin in child welfare proceedings. Judges, Court Improvement Program directors, court administrators and attorneys who handle cases that intersect with child welfare, such as in immigration, education, housing and family law, also participated.
- National Conference on Access to Justice for Children and Families
- National Conference on Parent Representation
- ABA Journal: