By Joseph M. Costa, Hillsides President and CEO
The child welfare field is relatively free of any significant political bias, although clearly it is in favor of maintaining entitlements for children. The well-being of children, youth, and families who are vulnerable is a concern for elected officials, regardless of their political party association. That being said, politicians like to know the opinion of their constituents and are committed to representing the best interests of those they serve. However, policy issues involving foster care are complex. Issues often are not fully vetted and can easily be influenced by competing philosophical agendas. In this environment, it is imperative to have advocates who can cut through bureaucracies and succinctly represent the concerns of those directly involved in delivering services to vulnerable children and families.
As the executive director of the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, Carroll Schroeder has been an extraordinarily effective advocate for children, youth, and families. Hillsides has been an active member of the Alliance from the Alliance’s establishment in 2000. During my tenure, not only here but in Northern California, I have had the privilege of knowing Carroll as a colleague, friend, and advocate for the children of California. After 17 years in this leadership position, Carroll is retiring at the end of the year. I’m sure the Alliance will find a very capable candidate to fill the vacancy. However, I’m confident that no one will surpass Carroll as a leader in this field or more effectively speak to the critical issues facing children, youth, and families.
During Carroll’s tenure as the executive director, the Alliance has addressed major issues that directly affect the children and families we serve. Whether it be assuring that mental health services are available to all children in the foster care system or guaranteeing adequate funding for residential services or reform efforts to improve care, Carroll has been at the forefront of initiatives to create positive change.
I meet with Hillsides’ staff regularly to hear their concerns about how to serve best the children and youth in our care. Especially as we implement significant reforms in the foster care system, there is always a concern that the strategies we employ need further development. The insights of staff and the experience of our clients are important to take into account when we interact with policymakers who are hoping to influence best practices in the field of child welfare.
Carroll is always interested in those insights, and helpful at directing who might best address them. He was able to marshal the resources of the Alliance to create effective change focused on the well-being of those we serve. He did this not only with a smile but with the ability to bring a smile and a laugh to those with whom he collaborated. His effectiveness has meant that the children we serve enjoy a greater level of care driven by a commitment to provide them and their families what they need most.
It is not often that this blog highlights the efforts of one person, but it is important to recognize such a great advocate because all of us, in our own way, are called to be advocates. The children, youth, and families we serve have a fragile voice, weakened by the trauma they have experienced. As Carroll has done throughout his career, we must lend our voice to theirs, and together address their needs.