JACSW Partners with Congressman Danny K. Davis to Focus on Families First
Congressman Danny K. Davis convened a child welfare public policy working group, hosted and co-sponsored by the Jane Addams College of Social Work (JACSW) at UIC Student Center East on Thursday, May 30, 2019.
The conversation centered around the Family First Prevention Services Act, how the legislation will improve outcomes for children in the child welfare system, and the implications for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), as well as for social service providers in the Chicago metropolitan area. The core focus, however, was the goal – shared by all in attendance – of optimizing outcomes for children, and keeping families intact and self-sufficient.
JACSW Professor Terry Solomon, who has long experience with families in the child welfare system, gave welcoming remarks and underscored the importance of focusing on the family when people seek services, and keeping families together whenever possible.
Congressman Davis, who chairs the Worker and Family Support Subcommittee on the House Ways and Means Committee, presented opening remarks, noting the importance of UIC to the city of Chicago, and the degree to which the JACSW curriculum emphasizes child welfare policy and practice. He also expressed his optimism for Illinois DCFS, not only under Gov. Pritzker, but also under the new DCFS director, Marc D. Smith, who happens to be a JACSW alumnus. Congressman Davis noted that, while we do face problems, we also have solutions. “I am always solution-oriented, looking for a solution to do something about the problem, to do something about the need,” he said.
A panel of subject matter experts then provided unique perspectives on a range of related issues, from how the Family First legislation will change funding for programs, to the legislation’s emphasis on evidence-based practice. The panel was comprised of:
- Annetta Wilson, Executive Director & Founder of the Sankofa Safe Child Initiative,
- Andrea Durbin, Chief Executive Officer of the Illinois Collaborative on Youth,
- Brandie Knazze, CPPO, First Deputy Commissioner for the City of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services,
- Bryan Samuels, Executive Director of Chapin Hall, University of Chicago, and
- Pamela F. Rodriguez, MA, President and CEO of TASC, Inc. (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities)
The panel was followed by a lively and highly engaged discussion among event participants.
Dean of the Jane Addams College of Social Work, Creasie Finney Hairston, concluded the event by thanking Congressman Davis, his staff and the panelists. She emphasized the importance of such public dialogues, not only for disseminating information but also for fostering collaboration. “There is tremendous knowledge, understanding, talent, expertise, passion and commitment in this room,” she said. “So, we need to leverage that energy in collaboration with DCFS to make a difference that really matters for children and families.”