Why Advocating for Children at the Child Welfare League of America National Conference is More Crucial Than Ever

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Joe Costa with Congresswoman Judy Chu

When I walk around Hillsides’ Pasadena campus, meet the children and youth we serve, engage the many families that count on us, I am impressed with not so much the challenges they face but their resolve to improve their lives. Recently one of our longtime exemplary employees, Lucy Abdelradiy, was chosen for a PBS SoCal segment that focuses on the challenges of children in the foster care system and the dedication of those who make serving them a lifelong mission. As part of the taping, a recent graduate of our residential program was present to share in her own words her appreciation for this woman who taught her so much. Having known the young woman as a resident and the challenges she addressed in treatment, I was even more impressed with her poise and her ability to express poignantly her story and the role this one staff member and Hillsides played in reuniting her with her family and getting her ready for independence.

It is the sacrifice of our extraordinary staff and the needs of the children, youth and families we serve that will be foremost on my mind as I join colleagues from all over the country for the annual Child Welfare League of America advocacy conference in Washington, D.C. The attendees do not gather as partisans but rather as advocates raising a voice on behalf of those we serve, hoping that the critical issues we highlight  will be addressed by our elected representatives.

For many of us who are veterans to such endeavors, idealism has been tempered by the realities of competing political agendas, public weariness of entitlements and fiscal constraints. However, just as our clients are resolved to identify a better future, we approach each encounter with a legislator or congressional staffer with a determination to find solutions within our means and a conviction that to do otherwise is unacceptable.

There are several issues, in particular, we will address with our respective legislators that are especially relevant to those we serve. While recognizing the need to address some of the shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we must find some way to improve upon it to assure health care to the most vulnerable. Aside from making health care accessible to millions of needy children and families who had been uninsured,  it provides the principle funding for much-needed service like substance abuse and a seamless approach to health care that provides mental health service. Associated with the ACA is the expansion of Medicaid, called Medi-Cal in California.  This alone has safeguarded access to mental health service for all children in foster care and must be protected along with other funding of children’s services that allow for a robust early intervention and prevention approach to help children and families stay together safely. In addition to sustaining funding for children’s services, keeping immigrant families together regardless of their documented status is critical given the growing risk of separating families.

It is not sufficient for us to say that vulnerable children and families are important; we must demonstrate our commitment by securing the resources needed to make an impact. Public funding when effectively utilized has the potential to change lives, decrease dependency and assure a pathway to a productive life. This kind of an investment is the foundation for well-functioning communities that provide safety and support for all its members.

For more information regarding the CWLA Legislative agenda please visit http://www.cwla.org/success2017/#.

Editor’s note:  The PBS SoCal segment featuring Hillsides employee Lucy Abdelradiy is part of PBS SoCal’s “To Foster Change” initiative to foster understanding, inspire hope and motivate positive actions that change the realities and life outcomes for Southern California youth in foster care.  In the upcoming weeks, check our website and Facebook page – We will link to the segment as soon as it is finished.

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