Children’s Home & Aid raised over $400,000 during its annual fundraiser, with this year’s theme of “Breaking Barriers. Centering Families. Transforming Systems.” The goal of the day’s event was to highlight the challenges in the child welfare system and that we must end the need for foster care as we know it.
Keynote speaker, best-selling author and national activist Baratunde Thurston shared poignant thoughts during his talk, and throughout a Q&A session with agency President & CEO Mike Shaver, on the impacts of systemic racism on communities, particularly in the child welfare system. Later in the program Vice Chairman of BMOHarris Bank, Eric Smith, highlighted the responsibility of corporations that are in underserved communities and how they and their partners can create inclusive solutions to work side-by-side with families to improve economic mobility for residents, especially in Black and brown communities.
The event rounded out with a panel discussion, hosted by the agency’s Ahlquist Center for Policy, Practice & Innovation. This session was moderated by Chicago’s own Jamilah Lemieux, also an award-winning author and cultural critic. She asked questions to the panelists that elicited responses ranging from defining what families look like, identifying innovative solutions to support Black and brown youth, the importance of understanding history and the value of a second chance. The panelists were Jen Agosti, an expert in child welfare transformation; Berto Aguayo, executive director of Increase the Peace, an organization to develop young leaders; Judge Zine Cruse, judge in the 20th judicial circuit, and Dawnielle Jeffrey, Vice President of Early Childhood Services for Children’s Home & Aid.
“Changing the way we support families begins with changing the way we listen to and engage with the families we serve,” said President and CEO Mike Shaver. “The root causes of what we seek to change are entrenched in racist systems. The history of our work and the data both show that centering families in our solutions is the key to sustained changes to these systems.”
At the heart of the theme is the desire to support children by securing equitable and fair practices and support to their families to mitigate small challenges rather than those small challenges becoming life-altering obstacles, Shaver added.
About 250-300 people joined the virtual event, meeting their fundraising and attendee goal in the hopes of spreading the word about how their programs, supported and reimagined could make things better for families and communities so that children in Illinois, and beyond, can thrive.
A recap of the day with short video snippets is available on their website.