Review 2017 Children & Families Policy Symposium

March 1, 2017 – A Child’s Well-Being…It Takes a Family

By Kim Cagno, Director San Mateo Department Child Support Services

“We live in a world where all families are stable, healthy and self-sufficient.”    -Unknown

On March 1, 2017, child support professionals, policy makers, advocacy groups, non-profit organizations, and health and human service agencies came together for the 2017 CSDA Children & Families Policy Symposium to discuss an array of topics and explore solutions toward improving the lives of children and families in California and nationwide. Almost 250 attendees packed the Hilton Arden West in Sacramento, where nearly half were stakeholders outside of child support.

A world where all families are stable, healthy, and self-sufficient is unknown, but the list of distinguished guest speakers provided powerful imagery, substantive research, and policy direction toward achieving a shared vision of family self-sufficiency.

Dr. Sherri Heller, Director of Sacramento County Health and Human Services, served as the Symposium Moderator and “Provocateur.” Dr. Heller led lively panel discussions with presenters and engaged the audience in asking challenging questions.

Helping dispel the label that all non-custodial fathers are “deadbeat dads,” filmmaker Emily Abt shared her experience making the documentary, “Daddy, Don’t Go,” following the lives of four disadvantaged fathers and their struggle to stay involved in their children’s lives.  The powerful imagery presented in the trailer set the tone for a thought-provoking day.

“There are no single mothers, only unstable, complex families,” was the message of sociologist, author, and Professor Dr. Kathryn Edin. Ms. Edin shared her qualitative and mix-method research of the complexities that occur within the family unit when new parental relationships and step-siblings are brought into an already unstable and impoverished family structure.

Kenneth Braswell with Fathers Incorporated shared his Progressive Change Model diagram to illustrate the need to take a “heart-centered approach” to helping fathers gain trust and increase involvement by pulling them into the conversation and focus on their emotions, morals, and beliefs.

Longtime healthcare administrator, author, and public sector/non-profit manger, Dr. Marcella Wilson argued since poverty in America is recognized as a medical condition, it should be treated as a disease using the medical model of science and data-driven standards of care. Dr. Marcella’s Transition to Success model standardizes the treatment of poverty through cross-industry practices of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI). She provided a comprehensive, uniform, cross-industry model that would assist in the de-stigmatization of poverty and treat the root of the issue.

Dr. Olivia Golden, Executive Director for the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and past HHS Commissioner, was moderated by Dr. Steven Golightly, Director of Los Angeles Child Support. Dr. Golden shared significant concerns about the future threats to children and families with the possible  removal of safety net programs,  policy changes surrounding immigration, and   changes that may affect the health and safety of people of  color.

Assemblymember Tony Thurmond representing the San Francisco East Bay Region, shared his personal story of struggles and the systematic problems that his clients face. His legislative bills are focused on keeping kids in school and out of the prison system.

And our own Alicia Griffin, Director California Department Child Support Services, noted that child support is a poverty prevention program that is integral to improving the health and well-being of families   Alicia spoke of procedural justice as an important framework in delivery of client-centered services to strengthen stakeholder partnerships and neutral decision making.

CSDA was successful in joining together a cross section of various disciplines to share, advocate, and think about what collective action steps can be taken to achieve better outcomes for children and families.

Please click below to read the full 2017 CSDA Children & Families Policy Symposium Report.