By Anastasia Herold & Ashley Grace, students, University of Southern California
Anthony Avalos, Gabriel Fernandez, Noah Cuatro; names synonymous with the Antelope Valley child welfare system. Their cases have brought attention to the disproportionate levels of child abuse and social worker burnout in the area.
What still needs to be addressed is the racism which permeates every facet of the child welfare system in both our country and our county. Children of color are being removed from their homes at alarmingly disproportionate rates to their representation in society. If we want to support local families breaking free from cyclical, multigenerational child welfare involvement, we must pass California Assembly Bill 656.
AB 656 is a proactive measure that would allow the Antelope Valley to participate in a pilot program to fight the forces of racism.
This measure uses a blind removal strategy for deciding when a child should be removed from their parent’s home. Identifying information such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and parents’ income level are redacted before a removal decision is made.
The same program proved successful in significantly reducing removals of Black children in Nassau County, NY over a 5-year trial period. We contend that the passage of AB 656 could produce similar results in our community and allow the Antelope Valley to ensure a more equitable and less traumatizing process for maltreated children and reported families.
AB 656 is being heard by committee on March 15th. We urge you to contact Antelope Valley Assemblyman Tom Lackey to voice your support of this legislation.
About the authors:
Ashley Grace is a board member and advocate volunteer at CASA of Los Angeles serving the needs of children in the dependency system. Currently a student in USC’s MSW program, she is a fierce advocate for abused and neglected youth.
Anastasia Herold is currently pursuing a second Masters’ degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California. Through her work in the Education Department of the San Francisco Symphony, she designed and implemented a pilot program to teach music to special needs students in the public schools.