Advocate for QPI
In my work as a national advocate as the director of the Youth Law Center, I’ve had the chance to be involved in all kinds of reform for children in foster care across the country- changes that support the chances children will have better educational, health, well-being and life outcomes. My deep personal desire for change comes from spending my childhood years growing up in foster care facilities where I felt like no more than a hopeless list of the worst things I did on the worst days I ever had. I experienced the immediate and long term consequences of feeling unloved and like I belonged nowhere. I know I am statistically incredibly lucky to have had the opportunities that allowed me to change my life trajectory and follow my dreams to become a leader, lawyer, and mother.
My personal and professional experiences leave me with no doubt that a literal revolution is needed in foster care. We need a totally new approach that honors children’s humanity, beauty and potential and focuses on what is most important for their success- the daily love and parenting they need. I am so grateful to be witnessing Louisiana leading this revolutionary transformation through our Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI). QPI is based on the principle that that loving and nurturing parenting is the most important intervention for children and youth in foster care. It also calls for us to align all of our child welfare work and values to support the relationships between children and those responsible for their happiness and care.
With the vision, commitment, and leadership of Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards, Secretary Marketa Walters, Assistant Secretary Hodnett and her leadership team, we are seeing results here that are transformational. The practice, policy and cultural changes underway in Louisiana to re-orient child welfare to ensure the people that love and care most for children, birth and foster parents, are connected and parenting in partnership are inspiring new excitement and hope for how we can care for children and families across our nation.
These QPI changes don’t just make life better for children and families. I think Kayla; a caseworker from Jefferson Parish says it best: “Before QPI was introduced to us, we really didn’t have that type of relationship and connection going on between birth parents, foster parents and the staff. Sometimes in this work, we feel like, “I can’t do this”, but now we know that the birth parents are on board with trying to work with the foster parents. And the foster parents are on board…it’s just amazing. And clerical is on board, the CI worker is on board…everyone in the office is on board, even the security guard. It’s just awesome.”
When we focus on a relationship based child welfare system, caseworkers have more connections and all stakeholders are able to do the meaningful work they came into child welfare to do. While transformation is necessarily a continuous effort and there is much more to work on, we are proving that it is possible and giving the country a model of what a community full of big hearts, creative minds, and courageous spirits can accomplish in partnership.
For more information about Louisiana Fosters, including a list of resources available for foster parents, visit www.LouisianaFosters.la.gov.