Halimah Washington, Community Coordinator, PAR Project Lead
I am a Black Mama from New York City who is directly impacted by the family regulation system with involvement going back multiple generations. My experience with the family policing system speaks to how it stays in people’s lives for multiple generations, never helping, but continuing to cause harm and trauma throughout the generations. I am passionate about this work because Black and brown families deserve to thrive and to not be targeted by punitive systems. The most amazing part of this PAR journey for me was seeing the growth in confidence and skills of the parents leading the project as they became researchers, facilitators and organizers. It was meaningful to help to create a safe space for parents to talk about their family policing system involvement and dream of a future without systems involvement. Having a safe space to share your parenting experiences is priceless. In community conversations, parents stated that they appreciated this space. Parents wanted more safe spaces and investment in their communities and less investment in systems that target and punish Black and brown families.
Naashia B., Rise & Shine 2020; Organizer and PAR Team Member
As part of the Rise & Shine Parent Leadership Program, I had access to information, training and networks of people who experienced the family policing system negatively, just as I had. I gained a different perspective on the many biases too often unspoken and publicly overlooked. The Rise family helped me to embrace the reality that I, too, was an impacted parent surviving the web of harmful systems, and to begin writing my story unapologetically. Post-Rise & Shine graduation, I began working with the PAR project, leading community conversations with other impacted parents around family policing and the injustices we face. As an impacted parent, I want to accurately and wholeheartedly share our truths about oppressive systems that constantly paint us with their standards. The most meaningful aspect of the project has been giving space for parents to name and address harmful systemic failures. I want to continue making room for us to write and tell our own narratives.
Shamara Kelly, Rise & Shine 2020; Organizer and PAR Team Member
I am a resilient Black mother, sister, daughter, friend, aunt and thriver, despite many systems that have impacted me in many ways. One system in particular, ACS, affected my emotional and mental well-being. At 19, I got my first case from the family policing system. I was in an abusive relationship, and I still felt I had to protect myself from ACS. I didn’t want to be seen as an angry Black woman or bitter—I’m neither. I needed to take my power back, not only from the person that abused me but from systems that victimize Black mothers—Black women period. That led me to do this work alongside powerful parents who have the same passion I have. Facilitating community conversations and building relationships with parents around their experiences with the family policing system brought me ease and made my passion for this work even stronger. My passion has always been to bring resources back to my community and educate them on their rights. It’s a must that we keep our foot on the system’s neck the same way they do to Black and brown communities. I’m still growing in many ways, from being angry at the system, to turning my pain into medicine and using it against the system. Healing takes time and there’s no time limit on it. I love the process and allow myself to be fully present in any space I’m in. I learned to live unapologetically, use my truth and hold my experiences and parents’ experiences with systems as a reminder that there’s so much more to be done.
Melissa Landrau, Joined Rise in 2013; Contributor and PAR Team Member
I’ve experienced the family policing system and all the tribulations of it. I still came out on top, but with damage and lack of support. The PAR project has been meaningful to my recovery and understanding after all the things I went through in the family policing system. I have learned to reflect on, understand and manage my feelings and how to accept both criticism and positive feedback. I’m learning new things and becoming the best version of myself through advocacy. I do the work because it helps me grow and I want a career in social work and advocacy. I’ve learned important tools and strengthened roots that can take me that way. The past determines the future, and we’re fighting for societal change and to be better people. I’ve learned to use my voice and skills to empower other parents and call for the changes we envision, including safe communities where we can look to our neighbors for help.
Yvonne Smith, Rise & Shine 2020; Contributor and PAR Team Member
I started at Rise in 2019 as an impacted mother, grandmother and former foster parent. I thought that ACS helped to keep families together and keep children safe. Little did I know, that’s not true! I went through twelve years of abuse by ACS and other systems as I tried to keep my family together—but still, we were separated. Even though my cases were all unfounded, my life turned into a living hell. I didn’t know my rights, they looked at my grandkids’ bodies and showed up at my grandkids’ school, doctor’s and camp. I was also impacted financially but didn’t get any financial support. When you’re going through this, you feel alone, but you’re not—there are a whole lot of Black and brown families impacted. No one should go through this, and ACS should be held accountable for the lasting harm they inflict on children and families. At Rise, I was introduced to the PAR project, which has led me to great growth, new knowledge and insight into life. I’ve become an advocate for impacted families, a facilitator and a researcher. In this project, I work with an amazing team of women who are very passionate. They are not just a team, but a family, for we help each other find our inner strengths.
Imani Worthy, Public Speaking Coordinator; Rise & Shine 2020; PAR Team Member
My experience with the family policing system was traumatic. I will never forget what I went through and empathize with other mothers who have gone through similar experiences. Together, we are trying to turn the tables. The PAR project has been an opportunity for me to begin to sow seeds of equity within my community. It has been meaningful being in community, in a space with other impacted people. I have learned that healing spaces are crucial for the advancement of our community. I am most passionate about dismantling systems that have created more harm than good. I needed to be part of a healing space, because I can’t help others if I’m not helping myself first. While I was involved with ACS, I was struck by the necessity of strong peer support—how important it is to be around like-minded people, understand that I am not alone in my personal struggles and realize that there are so many other people like me in the same predicament. When my husband and I were labeled “child abusers”, people who knew us knew this was false. Their support and advocacy for us empowered us to fight for a greater purpose. People need to come together and unite against social injustices.