Posts Tagged: Fighting For Our Rights

Fighting for our Rights is about parents’ legal rights and representation, as well as related legislation.

‘We had to see it through for my niece, my sister, our family’: How Amber Wilkes-Smith filed an appeal to try to keep her family together

Soon after Amber Wilkes-Smith’s niece was born, she was placed in foster care in Buffalo, New York. Amber was not notified by the child welfare system, in violation of her family’s rights and child welfare requirements. By the time she found out her niece was in care, her sister’s parental rights had been terminated. Amber filed a petition through the court to try to get custody. When her petition was denied, she appealed the decision. Although Amber lost the appeal, she is sharing her experience to raise awareness of these issues, help other families and push for change.

Here, Amber and Michael Steinberg, Amber’s lawyer in the appeal, explain the appeal process. They discuss violations of parents’ and families’ legal rights and systemic injustice in the child welfare and family court systems.

How Parents Can Advocate for their Children to Be Placed with Family

When faced with the trauma of the child welfare system removing their children, many parents prefer that their children be cared for by a family member or someone they know and trust, rather than by strangers. Research shows that children benefit from being placed with family members rather than non-relatives, and states are required by law to prioritize placement with relatives. Unfortunately, this isn’t always what happens in practice. In NYC, the child welfare agency, ACS, invested in coaching and training so that more children are placed with kin.

Here, Lavern Harry, VP Foster Care, Adoption and Preventive Services, and Nosa Omoruyi, Director Foster Parent Recruitment, Development and Support, talk about practices that have increased use of kinship care at Graham, an agency in New York City. Ms. Harry and Mr. Omoruyi discuss the rights of parents and family members, as well as some of the challenges of kinship care. They also suggest what parents can do if their children are removed to make it more likely that they will — or won’t — be placed with particular family members.

‘I Was Denied the Right to Keep My Family Intact’ – Black families like mine have been separated for generations

Black Lives Matter! A rallying cry to address the unjustifiable killing of people of color and the public’s disregard and avoidance of the reasons this issue remains rooted in our society. Media outlets are primarily reporting on police brutality, as they should; however systemic racism is pervasive in all American institutions, including child welfare. Every institutional encounter places the Black family at risk of separation. From public school teachers, medical staff, public housing, social services and the police, Black families cannot avoid scrutiny nor find relief or justice.

My niece has been in foster care in Erie County, NY for five years and will now be adopted by non-relatives. In violation of our family’s rights, I was never notified by the child welfare system that she was in care. 

My niece’s removal to foster care was a direct outcome of the ramifications of slavery and institutional racism. This statement may sound alarmist; however, my niece is only six generations removed from slavery, two generations removed from Jim Crow, and is a third generation experiencing the disruption of our family by the child welfare system.

‘I Didn’t Think They Would Take Him Away’

It’s important for mothers who have previously been involved with child protective services to know about their rights and risks while they are pregnant so they can take steps to prevent their child from being taken at birth.

When I was pregnant with my son, I had a feeling I was going to run into some issues when the baby was born. I didn’t think they would take him away, but I knew I would have problems because my daughter was taken from me when she was about 2 and a half months old. I knew child protective services would look into any future child I might have.