Reflecting on the Urban Child Symposium and the Future of Child Welfare System Reform in Baltimore

Over two hundred people attended the University of Baltimore School of Law Center for Families, Children and the Courts’ 3rd annual Urban Child Symposium, and the day was a passionate and intensely informative exchange. The topic was “The Urban Child in the Child Welfare System: From Fracture to Fix”, with speakers including experts from the court system, the social services system, academia, and real life – from a former foster child to a parent who voluntarily terminated her parental rights. Our audience, which included lawyers, social workers, educators, community activists, the general public, students, and policymakers, was diverse and involved. If you missed any or all of the symposium, you can watch a podcast of the powerful discussion here.

Throughout the day, the burning questions seemed to be: After many years of reform, have we actually improved the lives of children? Have we complicated rather than streamlined the system, and should we have second thoughts about our path? How can we move the system forward, introduce more research-based “best practices,” and better protect the interests of children in this complex social structure? How can we make sure that this symposium is not just a one-day event filled with good ideas and information, but is actually a springboard for reform? Former DHR Secretary Brenda Donald implored the audience to take an active role in the selection of her successor, and other panelists echoed this suggestion. We would like to encourage our readers to get involved in this process, as it will have a major impact on the future of system reform.

Further, we at CFCC want to ask you to share your thoughts, insights, and perhaps personal experiences. What do you think can be done to improve the child welfare system? How do we turn ideas into concrete reform?

Many of the Urban Child Symposium audience members requested more time to network and discuss practical steps, so we would urge you to do so, both on this blog and in your communities. Let us agree to move Baltimore’s children forward into a more therapeutic child welfare system that better meets their needs in the most difficult of circumstances.

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