For the past year, Emancipate NC team members J Hallen and Elizabeth Simpson have been interviewing stakeholders in the Durham County child welfare system, including foster parents, impacted parents, attorneys, social workers, Guardian ad litem volunteers, and Department of Social Services (DSS) workers.
The result of these interviews is a report on ways our Durham community can come together to keep children safe and protected, support kinship ties, and limit the painful impact of involuntary family separation.
At the same time, we have also supported our Justice League Fellow Jatoia Potts to launch her own new advocacy organization, Thrive Tribe NC, an organization dedicated to building and uplifting healthy and safe families with the resources that are needed to sustain thriving communities.
Our suggested DSS reforms include time-slot scheduling in court, sharp limitations on delays in court, increased visitation opportunities, implementing trauma-informed courtrooms, in-house psychological services for children, reducing the impact of positive marijuana drug screens, and more. We also ask Durham County to provide the community with data to better inform everyone about the contours of the system.
As Durham is set to hire a new Director of Social Services this Fall, we urge Durham to affirm, as part of this hiring process, that involuntary family separation is always a tragedy that must be avoided with rigor; that when separation occurs, prompt reunification is the goal; and that our community wants to provide robust resources to biological families to keep children safe with their parents.