Toward Our North Star: Rise’s Abolition Retreat

Artwork by Eileen Jimenez. Learn more.

Rise recently held a three-day retreat for staff to learn together about the child welfare system, abolition and restorative and transformative justice approaches to addressing harm. We discussed roots of oppression (including racism, classism, sexism, ableism, colonization, capitalism) and envisioned our “North Star” — our vision for children, families and communities. 

Led by Bianca Shaw, assistant director for programs and culture, and Genevieve Saavedra Dalton Parker, development director, the retreat provided an opportunity for our team of staff and contributors to connect with ourselves and each other as a community.

The retreat included opportunities to:

  • explore our own multiple identities, connecting them to social constructs and structural oppression and discussing internalized and interpersonal oppression;
  • build our understanding of the history of structural oppression in the family regulation system;
  • share our values and the roles we play in movements, celebrating histories of resistance, resilience and collective care;
  • explore responses to harm (punishment vs. accountability and healing) and learn about restorative and transformative justice;
  • envision our “North Star” and brainstorm strategies for dismantling the family regulation system and investing in community supports.

Through the retreat, we developed shared language, connected to our shared values, recognized differences in our perspectives and built our knowledge and understanding of abolition as a vision and a practice. This collective, ongoing learning and relationship building grounded in our values will continue for staff and contributors through mini-retreats. It serves as a foundation for all of our work at Rise, including the Rise & Shine Parent Leadership Program, Parent Advocate Pathways Project, Parents’ Platform / Participatory Action Research Project and our publications. 

Retreat Reflections

‘Everything Needed to Thrive’

This year, I joined in community conversations and the abolition retreat at Rise. We discussed what families need in their community and how we should help them get the things they need and want. If communities had everything they needed to thrive, there would be fewer child welfare investigations in the Black and brown community. If parents had a place where they could go and get help without any judgment, it would be better for families and communities. 

During the abolition retreat, we explored how we identify who we are as people. And it showed us that it is OK to forgive and change or deal with change. It also taught me about empowerment–how to take control of our lives and fight for what we need. If you just sit back and don’t say anything, you will not get what you need and want in life.

Keyna Franklin, Assistant Editor

‘I’m Ready for the Long Run — To Make the Community a Better Place’

I was in the three-day abolition retreat with two amazing leaders at Rise — Bianca and Genevieve. I was able to learn so many different things. We named our “North Star” and learned about restorative and transformative justice. 

By creating a “resilience timeline” together, I learned different things about my peers. Working on the resilience timeline involved opening up about the past, present and future and getting to know people. We all went through ups and downs but came out the other side. I also learned that “circles can hold anything” and to keep up self-determination and continue to learn. 

What stood out for me the most was getting to know my identity and learning about transformative justice, because I don’t know myself and I want to support my people and my community. Going through this retreat as a person who was adopted opened my eyes. Learning about my identity is important so that I have the courage to help myself and others to be seen. 

I learned about H.O.L.L.A, a youth-led movement helping youth of color in our communities. I had never heard of them, and seeing the documentary hit home. No matter what, there is judgment and colorism — no matter if you are from the hood or not. Throughout the pandemic, I am seeing so much judgment and racism, with all of the men of color who have been killed by cops and immigrant children who are separated from their families.

I know it’s going to be hard to abolish the system, but as a person that went through the system, abolition means more to me — closing the child welfare system, the cops and anything else that is bad for the communities I live in. Child welfare and police don’t respect us. Racism, classism and sexism all stand hand-in-hand.As a contributor at Rise, I’m ready for the long run — to make the community a better place. I envision parents getting more funds beyond welfare, better jobs, better community spaces and places for food shopping. When people are falling into homelessness, instead of sending them to a shelter, we should help them to be comfortable in the longer term by providing 6 months to a year of paid rent. We need banks that provide ways to build our credit without payments or fees. There’s a lot I want to see done. To reach our North Star, we must never hold back — we must keep moving and pushing forward. 

— Shakira Paige, Contributor

‘Dismantling Punitive, Racist Systems and Building a Network of Support’

I look forward to sharing more knowledge and wisdom about abolition to: dismantle our own internalized “stuff”; dismantle punitive and racist systems that continue to destroy our families and communities; build a network of support for individuals and families that honors our humanity and treats us with full respect and dignity.

— Halimah Washington, Community Coordinator

Next Steps

Mission and Vision

The abolition retreat grew out of Rise’s strategic planning process and helped us to finalize our new mission and vision statements: 

We envision communities that are free from injustice, family regulation and separation, and a society that is cultivating new ways of preventing and addressing harm. We imagine a radical commitment to ensuring that all families have what they need to live beyond survival and truly thrive.

Led by parents impacted by the child welfare system, Rise believes that parents have the answers for their families and communities. Our mission is to support parents’ leadership to dismantle the current child welfare system, eliminate cycles of harm, surveillance and punishment and create communities that invest in families and offer collective care, healing and support. 

Learn more about Rise’s story and evolution over time, the events that have shaped our work, and the impact we’ve had. As we move toward a new vision, we honor our relationships and our roots.

Community Conversations

Over the summer, we began a series of community conversations that created opportunities for learning, curiosity and reimagining communities where children and families can thrive. We are not just talking about how we can improve the system, but about moving away from systems and toward community care, support and healing. We have seen the power of parents when they come together, share their experiences and advocate for change. 

The community conversations are a first step in a year long Participatory Action Research (PAR) project to learn from parents the root causes of system involvement from their perspectives and the resources, supports and approaches that can bring real safety and healing to Black and brown families without system involvement. The PAR project will be an opportunity for us to deepen our relationships with parents and community-based organizations,  explore community-focused solutions to current child welfare issues and develop a Parents’ Platform of policy, budget and legislative actions that can prevent system involvement. 

If you are a parent interested in joining future Community Conversations with our PAR Team or are part of an organization that works with parents/families and would like to co-host a Community Conversation, contact Rise Community Coordinator Hamilah Washington at 

Ongoing Learning

Rise is learning from individuals and organizations who are taking calls for police and prison abolition seriously, who are centering the values and practices of restorative and transformative justice in their work and who are reimaging what communities need to be free from harm and thrive. Rise staff and contributors will continue our collective learning through ongoing mini-retreats, restorative justice circle keeper training, and a series of all-staff conversations with movement-builders. We plan to incorporate learning about restorative and transformative justice strategies and anti-carceral feminism into our upcoming series about domestic violence and its link to child welfare system involvemen


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