Shakira Paige is a contributor at Rise and a member of Rise’s Peer Vision Team. This reflection about abolition and the role of Peer and Community Supporters was published in the Rise Insights report, Someone to Turn To: A Vision for Creating Networks of Parent Peer Care.
Peer and Community Supporters can build relationships with families by being open and honest and by having kids themselves, so that they understand the parent and what they go through. It’s very important that peers have lived experience with the family policing system or are parents—because otherwise, how can you tell parents anything? It is important that Peer and Community Supporters never judge parents, just like if it was you in that same situation.
Part of keeping families safe is knowing what’s going on with them and letting them know, “I’m here to support you, not to harm you and your family.” Peer and Community Supporters can prevent family policing involvement if the situation is a simple issue of no food, or no clean clothes or toys, or if the parent needs to learn different methods of disciplining their children and responding to behavioral challenges.
Peer Supporters can provide information to parents and let them know where they can go for help—if they need clothes washed to keep the kids clean or food in the apartment. Community Supporters could hold community meetings about poverty to see where we are all struggling and what we can do about it together.
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 family policing 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.