The mission of child protection and child welfare systems should be to support parents and families to care for their children, and to enable children to grow up in safe, loving and nurturing families. Yet child welfare systems throughout the world too often fail to protect children, do not provide the support families need, and in some cases harm children in their care. This issue of the BCN Newsletter produced in collaboration with the International Parent Advocacy Network (IPAN) features new evidence and resources highlighting the role parent participation, and parent advocacy in particular, can play in strengthening children’s care and protection. Parent advocacy in child welfare is when parents with child welfare experience promote parent participation and the rights of parents and children through case, program and policy advocacy.
Research findings identified in a new International Review of Parent Advocacy in Child Welfare commissioned by the Better Care Network, indicate that parent advocacy has been demonstrated in high-income countries to reduce the number of children placed into care and the length of time children remain in care, and improve the experience of both parents and professionals in the child welfare systems.
This new report presents the findings from a preliminary review of practice in increasing parent participation through parent advocacy in child welfare decision-making and it looks at the opportunities and challenges parent advocacy creates; lessons learnt across different settings and contexts, and evidence of the benefits of supporting such engagement as a key element in system reform. It also includes the results of the first international survey of parent advocacy programs.
As parents across the globe are brought together in conversation, there is a realization that the challenges they are facing are not unique and are reflected across many cultures, communities and countries. In order to address the challenges these parents are facing in working with child welfare systems, they are starting to build grassroots advocacy organizations to be a countervailing force to push child welfare systems to change to create better outcomes for children and their families. These parent advocates are being trained as leaders, helping other parents and working to reform child welfare policies and practices.
IPAN is one such organization. IPAN works to build a parent-led movement to transform child welfare worldwide. In this issue, IPAN’s president, Heather Cantamessa, shares her experience of being a parent involved in the child welfare system in the U.S. State of Washington and why IPAN has been vital in building the framework for an international parent advocacy community. This newsletter issue also features a new Parent Advocacy Toolkit, developed by IPAN and Rise - a New York City-based organization that builds the leadership of parents whose families have been affected by the child welfare system - which provides a platform where parents and professionals can learn about parent advocacy and the vital role it is taking in communities around the world, with the understanding that information is power. Other resources included in this issue highlight the roles that parent advocacy and participation are playing in empowering parents, creating stronger families and ultimately achieving everyone’s goal, which is to create healthier, safer, better childhoods.
The newsletter issue will be published on 30 October 2020 at 6:00pm EDT.