CASA remains committed to advancing social justice and advocacy for the fundamental human rights and innate value of every individual. We stand with people of color in the fight for racial justice and equity.
With the verdict in the trial for the murder of George Floyd this week, we saw some accountability. We saw a small step towards progress in the fight against systemic racism.
Before being able to fully absorb the news of the verdict and what it meant, we saw yet another death at the hands of law enforcement. This time the victim was a 16-year-old girl, Ma’Khia Bryant. What we have learned since is that Ma’Khia was living in foster care. What we know now is that Ma’Khia could have been any one of the young Black girls that we serve here at CASA.
Over the last year CASA has launched internal anti-racism dialogues, support circles for advocates and staff of color, and agency wide courageous conversations that continue to date. Together, we have grappled with the breadth and depth of systemic racism, not just in the criminal justice system, but in the very systems that our CASA children and youth navigate on a daily basis.
We have also partnered with our local county Dependency Court and County Children and Youth agency to launch an Equity in Child Welfare Task Force, whose purpose is to make long term improvements to address inequities and disparities in the child welfare system.
We know that Black children and youth are not only disproportionately involved in both the child welfare system and the juvenile justice system, but we also know that they experience disparate and more negative outcomes than their white counterparts in the system. The data collected and analyzed by our task force has already shown us that Black teenage girls, in particular, have the most negative outcomes of any demographic group in the Dependency system. One of the disparities we see is the disproportionately high rate of placement for Black teen girls in restrictive congregate care facilities. Even in the child welfare system, we see the behavior of Black teens being treated more severely, being perceived as more dangerous, and being responded to with more force than their white peers.
Ma’Khia’s death should shake any child advocate to our core. It is a tragic loss of life. It is also a stark reminder of the way that many of the youth we serve at CASA are viewed as threats through the lens of bias and systemic racism. It is a reminder of how vital it is for all of us to have the courage to identify, confront, and root out the systemic racism we encounter in our work to advocate for children and youth who face the dangers of discrimination and bias every single day.
The most effective change is driven by individuals who have experience using the systems and programs we are working to change. It is vital to the work of the Equity in Child Welfare Task Force that young people and families who have been personally affected by the foster care system join the task force. If you are interested in using your voice and advocating for change, please contact VoicesforChildren@delcocasa.org.