Child Welfare with Justice as the Throughline, Part 2

Join Janine Beaudry as she continues her conversation with Corey B. Best, in Part 2, of our 3-part mini-series on racial justice in child welfare. In part 2, Corey & Janine focus on how the legacy of chattel slavery underpins the current child welfare system, and the current push to abolish racist practices to build a just child and family support system.

Guest Info: 

Cory B. Best is, foremost, a dedicated father. Originally from Washington DC, Corey now resides in Florida where he began consulting with organizations to leverage adaptive leadership and systems building to promote authentic family engagement, racial justice, and protective factors for those impacted by the child welfare system.

In 2020 Corey founded Mining For Gold, an organization seeking to shape new thinking within complex systems with the goal of rebuilding child and family serving systems that are responsive to sharing power among constituents with a laser focus on preventing and dismantling all forms of racism. With consistent goals, the VT-CWTP contracted with Mining For Gold in 2022.

Host Info: 

Janine Beaudry, MSW has been working to support the safety and wellbeing of children and families for over 25 years. Previously a Family Services worker, then a Family Services supervisor, Janine is currently a Training & Coaching Team Lead with the Vermont Child Welfare Training Partnership.

Show Notes and Resources:

  1. For more information about Mining For Gold, you can find their website at: https://miningforgoldcommunity.com/.
  2. Dive into more of what Nikole Hannah-Jones has to offer at: https://nikolehannahjones.com/
  3. Learn more about Embodied Anti-Racism and more of Resmaa Menakem’s work at: https://www.resmaa.com/
  4. Learn more about the 2022 census at: https://www.census.gov/
  5. Click the following links for more about the many historical and current day events, laws, and policies that Corey mentions as built into the “architecture” of our current child welfare system:
    1. Virginia House or Burgess
    2. 1705 Virginia slave code
    3. 1700s law that children will carry name of mother
    4. Reconstruction
    5. 1909 White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children.
    6. Creation of the Children’s Bureau
    7. Flemming Rule
    8. Mandated Reporting
    9. 1974 CAPTA
    10. Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act
    11. Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA)
    12. Article – Foster care v. family preservation track record for safety and wellbeing
    13. Families First Prevention Services Act
  6. Click on the following link to learn more about André Gorz, “Non-Reformist Reforms”
  7. Learn more about the call for abolition in child welfare here: Intro to Child Welfare Journal double-issue entitled Poverty, Race, and Child Welfare/
  8. Dig into Dorothy Roberts’ articles using the following links:
    1. The Racial Geography of Child Welfare: Toward a New Research Paradigm
    2. Abolishing Policing Also Means Abolishing Family Regulation

Transcript:

Cassie Gillespie (00:02):

Hello, I’m Cassie Gillespie, and you’re listening to the Social Work Lens, a podcast produced by the University of Vermont’s Child Welfare Training Partnership and the State of Vermont. Today, we are bringing you part two of an incredible conversation between Janine Beaudry and Corey Best on child welfare with justice as the through line. If you missed episode one, now would be a great time to go back and listen to it. And if you’re all caught up, get ready. Okay, before I hand it to Janine, we’re gonna play a short clip from Corey to bring you right in. Enjoy.

Corey B. Best (00:35):

I know this may not be the most popular thing, but a a, another white colleague of mine she says, you know I’m so afraid of being called a racist. Well, you know, Janine, you personally can call me a name, but I can deal with that individually. But you put on a child welfare badge, you’re bringing a whole institution with a lot of history of things behind that, right? We can leave the negative words out of our vocabulary. We can treat people nice, right? And we’ll still have racist outcomes, because if we don’t do anything about the ideology, we’ll continue to see the same outcomes. And what my colleagues said, and and I, I definitely call her a friend now, she says, you know, it, it took me a while to understand where my anger needed to be projected. And so when conversations got tough, my anger went to the person, not the ideology. And, and it’s not even about us, right? It’s about this ideology. And she says, what she started to do was figure out how she can stop being angry at black people for speaking the truth, and start getting angry at racism for making her a racist.

Janine Beaudry (01:47):

Wise words, and a great way to center our attention throughout today’s episode. How do we really listen without anger to the truth black people are speaking while focusing our anger on the ideology that causes so much harm. Racism. We’ll get lots of practice today as Corey lays out the uncomfortable truth, connecting the structure of today’s child welfare system with the legacy of chattel slavery. How do we honor and strategize with the harmful impacts of this history to build a just child and family support system? So, I’d like to welcome you back Corey, to continuing the conversation that we started around child welfare with justice as the through line. Welcome back today, and thanks for, for joining me.

Corey B. Best (02:29):

Oh, it is my pleasure. I, I really appreciated us laying the foundation in our last conversation. And Janine, I am open to, to diving deep again. So thanks for having me back.

Janine Beaudry (02:42):

It’s absolutely my pleasure. So, let’s start where we left off in our last conversation with the 2020 census. 10.3% of people in Vermont live in poverty and nationally, the poverty rate for the population as a whole is slightly higher than in Vermont at 11.6, but the rate varies greatly according to race. That would be no surprise to anybody I think. Blacks have the highest rate of poverty at 19.5%, and non-Hispanic whites have the lowest at 8.1%. So the poverty rate for blacks and Hispanics is more than double that of non-Hispanic whites. We’ve long discussed child welfare involvement, quote unquote, disproportionately impacting black, indigenous and other people of color, as well as people of any race who are experiencing poverty. Mining for Gold, strategizes with history right? So you often say that the past shapes our present. Would you spend a few minutes contextualizing the design of our modern day child welfare system? Like how reproductive servitude during enslavement, apprenticeship, anti-blackness, and racist child welfare policies are all a part of the system’s architecture?

Corey B. Best (03:58):

Absolutely. Big, big question. And it comes with a lot of spring loadedness, right? And what I’m saying is, again, Resmaa talks about decontextualized trauma in a community looks like culture. Decontextualize trauma in a family looks like family traits, right? Decontextualize trauma, in a person looks like behavior. And, and so I, I appreciate you bringing us back to, to contextualizing these things because to the naked eye, if we continue to start with black poverty and not from enslavement, force rapeability, right? Those things and, and denial of access to social systems up through the sixties, right? You’ve already given us a timeline to look at. 1619, you began, we’ll continue to, to think about racism in the context of only disproportionality and disparity. Same thing if we continue to start with the arrows of the Indians and not, right?

Corey B. Best (05:16):

And I said that because I’m quoting, right? And not with colonization, right? Who called these individuals what we know them to be or grew up knowing them to be? Right? If we started, if we start from only the arrows of those individuals who were called Indians, and then not from their indigenous lands, right? Not from colonization, not from Eurocentric, right? Domination, assimilation, right? We, we won’t have a full story, and there’s no way to empathize if we don’t have the full story. And so when you think about strategizing with history, right? Mining for Gold recognizes that we must start with where things happen to groups of people and by whom and by what ideology, right? And so I mentioned Native Americans, and I mentioned blacks, black people specifically, because we, we then look at the legacies, right? The legacies of family separation and what that has had on our systems.

Corey B. Best (06:35):

One thing that we can think about is Frederick Douglass. Everybody knows Frederick Douglass, right? He shares a story and memories of his mother, right? Visiting only at night after being sold off. And so he’s only met his mother four times before she died. The reason why she, she visited at night is because she had no permission to leave the forest labor camp aka plantation. These child welfare policies and spatial location are by design. One we’ve always deemed American society has deemed certain people, inhuman, incapable. America has a peculiar relationship with black bodies, right? Good for commodity, good for servitude, good for reproducing. And that legacy leads to carceral logic, right? This Carceral logic is a compilation of practices, beliefs, and protocols, again, to punish those who deviate from whiteness. Now, when you think about the evolution of the modern day child welfare system, we, we can start, if we chose to at 1909, the White House Conference on dependent children, and then we can think about 1912, where the Children’s Bureau was incepted, right?

Corey B. Best (08:08):

So the beginning of that. But when we look at the ins, the, the, the period of enslavement, chattel slavery, right? We utilize forced forced pregnancy, rape, slave-ability for racial capitalistic gains with enslaved individuals, right? You again mentioned 1619. So Virginia House of Burgesses from 1619 through 1776. That date, 1776, probably rings a bell for people, right?

Janine Beaudry (08:45):

Yeah.

Corey B. Best (08:47):

That’s when America formed its identity, right? As a, as a free country. And I won’t go into all those details, but 1705 was the first slave code in Virginia, right? Also in the 17 hundreds, we began to see laws change that, that the child would co, would carry the mother’s name. So why is this in? Why is this important for us to think about when it comes to child welfare? One, it gave white men by law granted permission to enslave and, and rape black women, but also, right? They were able to enslave their own children, right?

Corey B. Best (09:36):

Their own children for, again, capitalistic gains. And so when you think about, when you think about child welfare, as we have come to understand it, we have a, we have a few policies that we have to, to think about when it comes to mandated reporting rights. So that’s 1963. And those laws those laws resulted in the surveillance of black, indigenous, Latino, latinx, Latino families turning their environments to, to pan family policing environments, right? And that’s what some folks are calling it. In 2008, Dorothy Roberts wrote an article she, she identified the profound effects of social relationships, including interference with parental authority, damage to child, children’s ability to form social relationships and distrust amongst neighbors, resulting from the government’s intense surveillance. She also followed up in 2020 in, in writing, “the vast majority of child welfare investigations and removals involve allegations of neglect related to poverty”.

Corey B. Best (10:46):

“And black families are targeted the most for state disruption as police don’t make communities safe. CPS affirmatively harms children and their families while failing to address the structural causes for the hardships. Residents in black neighborhoods live in fear of state agents entering their homes, interrogating them”. That is what that is just one impact, I’d say, of a child welfare policy that we know as CAPTA, right? So CAPTA is where CPS lives. And then we also have the Adoption Assistant and Child Welfare Act of 1980, the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994, known as mepa. And, you know, resource supports the idea that children’s development and resilience are affected by transracial adoptions. And I’m not against transracial adoptions. I just believe that we have to look at the, the legacy of slavery and freeing beautiful black children up for adoption, right?

Corey B. Best (11:55):

And so this is, this is also a, a mechanism to, to do that because how is it, Janine, that black women were able to care for the planters family and children for hundreds of years while caring for their own? And then in our contemporary world, we have a message that black and brown families can’t take care of their own children today. It’s bizarre to me to think about it in that frame when I strategize with history, and then we move into the other child welfare policy known as, as for many of the listeners understand exactly what I’m talking about. And you know, we, when we think about ask for that, 15 to 22, many families have not gotten that. But it’s a way, right? It’s through this process of concurrent planning and encouraged by af ask for that. Foster parents are told that their first obligation is to help reunify the family, but if by some chance they fail, right?

Corey B. Best (12:58):

They fail at that, then they get what they really want. And this is sort of the, the word on the street, right? And so this is from the parent’s perspective, and it’s also written in, in an article the track record on Safety and Wellbeing that was published in 2018 by NNCPR. And, you know, one of the, the hidden or least talked about policies is what was written in 1961, Janine. And that was the Fleming Rule. And so the Fleming Rule had really two provisions, the provision of service interventions to families that were declared as quote unquote unsuitable, right? So this, the suitability clause. Now, everything that we’ve talked about thus far, Janine has gotten us to understand, you know, spacial location segregation, who’s deemed human, who’s not, how our ideas have led to disinvestment in black community, right?

Corey B. Best (13:58):

Man, pretty clear picture there. And so if there’s a disinvestment, right? A divesting from black communities or a disadvantage in black communities, then there must be an advantage in other communities. And so that’s the privilege you talked about. But the suitability, it, it was to, to, to move the child to a suitable placement while continuing to provide financial support on behalf of Child Now case workers. And under emphasized back then, right as the racists ideologies of case workers about black families persisted and perpetuated the outcomes for more black children to be separated from their families. What we see based on a document that was written by the Juvenile Law Center in 2022, just last year, right? This Fleming Rule required, you know, no actual allegation or proof of, of detriment to the child, right? It, it, it was only about moral behavior, right?

Corey B. Best (15:03):

So, so someone’s view of the parent now, all of that, Janine, is sort of just a, a puzzle that can be pieced together as to how we are practicing today in child welfare. And I, I’ll, I’ll go a little bit further if I, if I may. Those are what we call at Mining for Gold, the big six, right? And the big six have not been extracted, right? And so we have not I, I guess, excavated what they have done, right? We have not studied what they the impact not only the outcomes, but the impact of those policies. And here we are implementing another federal Policy of Families First Prevention Services Act now. Why do I say that? With such, with such a disdain it’s not the policy, it’s the ideology. And so everything that we have discussed up to now, if we know who a candidate might be, right?

Corey B. Best (16:23):

We might see more black and brown children coming into care because of the vestiges and the, and the relics of those six policies, right? Suitability, mandated reporting who, who’s more deserving? Who gets placed more? So we might see more ch more black and brown children in care and more white children receiving prevention services, or deemed as candidates, but not actually being exposed or placed in a stranger’s environment, right? And through this part of the conversation, I, I really like to call on not the race, like the disparity that’s happening in black and brown communities, right? Because we always look at the data from a point of, wow, black and brown children are overrepresented in our systems. I want us to think about the white advantage gap for a moment, right? Not the black disparity gap for a moment, right? When we think about white advantage for just a moment, as data sees it, you have, if we continue to collect data in the way we do, Janine, we’re still holding whiteness as the standard because we compare all things to white bodied individuals, the wealth gap, the health gap, right?

Corey B. Best (18:07):

The educational gap, disproportionality gap, right? All of these things we’re comparing to white bodies. I understand why, but while we’re doing that, what messages are we sending, right? While we’re doing that, are we examining the advantages that are baked in our system? Or are we just saying that you’re not as good as white people? Like, which one, which message are we sending? Right? Again, I think that there’s there’s some nuance in language and some nuance in how we collect data and understand what it is we’re looking at, so we can prevent affirming existing beliefs about morality, humanity, and suitability.

Janine Beaudry (19:01):

Yeah. That is a lot to contemplate .

Corey B. Best (19:05):

Yeah

Janine Beaudry (19:05):

For sure. And, and all of that makes it little surprise that so many are focused on trying to bring about radical change for justice in child welfare, right? For, for example, in 2020, the Child Welfare League of America put out a special child welfare journal, double issue entitled Poverty, race, and Child Welfare. And an introduction to that points out that contributors tackled topics like explicitly acknowledging that social conditions and social structures leave some families more likely to come in contact with the child welfare system, and gives a suggestion to replace child welfare practices that cause trauma and unnecessarily separate poor families and families in some racial groups, with a universal approach to ensuring equity and wellbeing, family and community co-ownership of the child welfare system, and a redesign of laws and funding to support a just effective child welfare system, right? So, and, and you know, you similarly, you and Ivory Bennett wrote an introduction to the National Association of Council for Children’s 2023 fourth edition of Child Welfare Law and Practice titled Justice as the Through Line. And that’s a powerful call to action. In one part, you wrote, “we have hope for those who openly acknowledge the need for our current justice system to be abolished, not to be replicated and reformed. After all our declaration of independent states, our right to abolish destructive governmental systems”. What would abolition look like?

Corey B. Best (20:53):

Ooh, well…

Janine Beaudry (20:54):

Just a small question.

Corey B. Best (20:56):

Yeah, a little, just, just a little one, right? So depending upon the day of the week sometime, I believe that many, many of my colleagues are of an abolitionist mindset cross racial, right? I also believe that we have been sold a bill of goods, and I can’t find it in history, Janine. I can’t, just can’t find it as to why abolition creates such, such tension for people.

Janine Beaudry (21:34):

Hmm.

Corey B. Best (21:36):

If, if we starred from the positive premise that we believed that no bodied individuals should have been forced into captivity, and enslaved, and abolition was good in 1865, then I have no idea why it’s negative today.

Janine Beaudry (21:55):

Hmm.

Corey B. Best (21:56):

I I mean the word, the word itself, right? So I’ve noodled on abolition and have ebbed and flowed as to why do people feel uncomfortable about it. But then I, I quickly remember that it’s not my job to try to change hearts and minds. It’s my job to create spaces where truth can be told, and truth is not absolute. So it depends on how you also receive that truth, right Janine? It, it, it’s not about how what I’m giving or how I’m giving it, it’s how you receive it. So what it looks like may look different from different people based on their worldview. But I will say a couple of things about abolition in the context of child welfare in 2023, we have co-opted language from abolitionist transformation, re-imagination.

Corey B. Best (22:49):

We’ve, we’ve stolen the language, but don’t want to think about where we’re going to be transformed, where we’re going to be reinvented, and what that might take. So a part of abolition looks like nurturing freedom dreams. So it’s largely driven by understanding what is possible, right? What is possible. The other thing is abolition is an embodied set of values, mindsets that are derived from, from organizing principles, again, so that if we’re talking about child welfare in 2023, so that we eradicate all elements of that institution that are proven to widen the gap between disadvantage and promise, that’s what abolition would look like. We would actively be removing all elements that are proven to cause harm. And through that, we would also be ending state and government sanctioned violence, right? Yeah. And so, through abolition, we would focus a lot on the systems that cause harm, not the interpersonal things that we focus on today.

Corey B. Best (24:17):

Not saying that that’s wrong.

Janine Beaudry (24:19):

mm-hmm. ,

Corey B. Best (24:19):

Right? Practically speaking, it would also involve an investment, right? An investment in a future, a future dream. One that has not been actualized yet, similarly to what we saw happen in 1865, then reconstruction, and then now we might be in a third reconstruction, Janine, if we really looked at it. And what might that mean for people? What does liberation and freedom mean for an individual who deserves it and who does not? Abolition, as I mentioned, is a set of principles and actions. And you know, what it would look like is that abolitionists would have a commitment to solidarity across categories and political affiliations. Abolition looks like not only restoring bodies and repairing, right? So it’s restoration and reparation. Restoration and reparation, right? It gets back to the investment. So what we, what we know, Janine, and you mentioned your, your age, we’ve talked about a lot and, you know, just starting at 1619, like what people were called and how many, how we’re using language different now.

Corey B. Best (25:40):

All of those things are strategizing with, with history, but it’s a, it, it, it’s back to the investment. So what has not happened is there has not been an investment an investment in non-white uplift, emotional investment, financial investment, political investment, right? Spiritual investment, right? Those things are not, and have not been actualized. So abolition is not only eliminating or extracting the, the cancerous of structural violence, right? But it’s also presenting what we know we need to invest in, which is derived out of love, right? Derived out of freedom, derived out of, you know, understanding people’s agency. So to glimpse it to, to, to get a little more succinct or, or solid, I dare say concrete, because that might make people feel that it’s a done deal, right? I dare say that just to get a little more solid, if we were talking about child welfare, abolition, you know, a glimpse of it would be repeal, right?

Corey B. Best (27:02):

And a glimpse of abolition would be repeal, repealing CAPTA and ASFA, and also to shrink the function of the system so that it would impact families in a totally different way, right? That, that their function, that our function in child protection as we know it today, will be vastly different than the way it was designed, right? And so, right now many folk who are listening today might believe that our system is broken, right? We got a few bad apples or what have you, right? I think there’s a few bad barrels. definitely right? , right? Just thinking about apples in Vermont and all of that, right? I think it’s right. . But, but, but, but at, at the same time, our system is not broken, right? It’s, it’s, it’s functioning as it was designed.

Corey B. Best (28:00):

And we have to acknowledge that. And then the other thing is this, this idea that Andre, Andre Gorz, he, he, he lifted up years ago, coined non reformist reforms, right? Non reformist reforms. And I won’t go into law enforcement or what have you, but we thought once upon at times that body cams would be the thing, right?

Janine Beaudry (28:26):

Mm-Hmm. ,

Corey B. Best (28:26):

That was a reform.

Janine Beaudry (28:27):

Mm-Hmm. ,

Corey B. Best (28:28):

We see that it ain’t the thing, right? It’s just not the thing, right? That’s a tweak. It’s making the system a little bit better to do exactly what it was designed to do. And child welfare is similar in that way. So abolition looks like groups of people, including the workforce, including leaders, white, non-white bodies getting together and not compromising on a vision of what it’s possible, right? And so some of the reforms that we’ve seen over the course of the past decade and a half, amazing things to, to the naked eye safety decision making, right?

Corey B. Best (29:06):

Safety, science, right? Birth and foster parent relationships, right? But there was never a policy that they shouldn’t work together anyway, but it was just an unwritten rule. But now we have this big thing kin supporting kin, well, families, children have birth rights, their, their parents, right? So some of these, some of these reforms are, are human entitlements, right? And is it, is it us just catching up with the constitution? Or is it us really being innovative, bold, and creative? Right? And if we think safety decision making, and if we think birth and foster parent relationships, and if we think families first, and if we think better training for the workforce is the panacea and is the answer, then we might not be as bold as we are. Because if we look, if we look through, if we look at abolition through the lens of constitutionality right? All of these things we shouldn’t even have this conversation about today, Jeanine. If we upheld the Constitution, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation today.

Janine Beaudry (30:16):

And that’s, I think, you know, at least I can speak for myself. When I started taking up abolition as present tense, one of the things about that for me is that has always, in my lexicon been historical, right? As a done thing. Abolition happened versus we are still in the process, right? And, and I think that that certainly raises a lot of discomfort. Something that so many of us think happened and was completed is not, and we’re in the process of it current day, right? So I, I, I love, I love, love, love strategizing with history to nurture, freedom, dreams, and investing in those future dreams. I love that. That’s just poetry. , . It’s just poetry . Oh my gosh. So we could probably talk for another week and a half and not even scratch the surface .

Corey B. Best (31:15):

Yes. Yes.

Janine Beaudry (31:15):

But needing to value your time and respect it. I think we should probably put a comma in it there. I know that we are gonna be talking again. You’re gonna be talking with our deputy commissioner, which is very exciting. And I think the nurturing freedom dreams is a great frame for that conversation. So thank you so, so much for joining me today. I can’t even put my head like, wrap my head around all that you have dropped in this conversation. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

Corey B. Best (31:46):

I definitely appreciate the opportunity, Janine, and the, the relationship that, that we’re nurturing, right? So all kudos to you for even just leaning head first into this care-frontation, right?

Janine Beaudry (32:02):

Care-frontation, . Very nice. .

Corey B. Best (32:09):

Thank you.

Janine Beaudry (32:09):

Thanks.

Janine Beaudry (32:12):

And thank you for listening to this conversation about child welfare with justice as the through line. If you like me, want to hear more of what Corey b best has to share your in luck. Corey will be speaking with Vermont’s very own department for children and family services division, deputy commissioner Aryka Radke. Later this spring, Corey and Erica will be discussing the child and family support system that we want to build here in Vermont and nationwide. You don’t wanna miss that conversation, so keep an ear out for more information. Corey also hosts his own podcast called Audio Nuggets. And of course, each is pure gold. You can find them all as well as a trove of great information about Corey’s and Mining for Gold’s work at miningforgoldcommunity.com. And if you haven’t yet, listened to our November, 2021, three part mini-series, race and Racism in Child Welfare, hosted by Tabitha Moore with special guest Dr. Ken Hardy. You definitely wanna check that out. While you’re there, please dive into the rest of Welcome to the Field, seasons one through three.

Cassie Gillespie (33:19):

The Social Work Lens is produced by the University of Vermont’s Child Welfare Training Partnership, and the State of Vermont. Our theme music is composed and performed by local band Brick Drop, and our sound production and engineering has been brought to you by Egan Media Productions. We’d also like to give a special thank you to our in-house administrative production assistant, Emma Baird. For The Social Work Lens, I’m Cassie Gillespie and we’ll see you next time.

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