NFYI member Japheth Kariuki wrote a powerful opinion piece that was published by the USA Today Network urging child welfare officials to rewire their thinking and recognize the systemic violence in child removal. Writing about his personal experience in Florida’s child welfare system, Japheth offers first-hand advice to policymakers and legislators who are committed to doing what’s best for children. Read an excerpt below and find the full article here.

I’m a former foster child and Florida’s system needs to be overhauled | Opinion
Japheth Kariuki | Your Turn
Nov. 20, 2020

The USA TODAY Network’s recent landmark investigation into Florida’s child welfare system reflects both my personal experience in foster care and the ways in which well-meaning state policies often inflict unintentional harm on a community’s most vulnerable population. Other states and our federal government should take note if they’re truly committed to doing what’s best for children.

In 2014, then-Gov. Rick Scott, Florida lawmakers and child welfare advocates decided to pivot Florida’s child welfare strategy away from keeping families unified toward protecting the child at all costs — at least that was their intention. The state allocated millions of dollars to hire new child abuse investigators, which resulted in a spike in the number of children removed from their homes.

However, there were no additional resources put towards ensuring these children were placed in safe foster homes. As USA TODAY’s investigation uncovered, hundreds of children were placed in homes with foster parents who have been accused of abuse, making the state’s changes counterproductive and exposing children who had already been victims of abuse to further victimization.

As a former foster youth with lived experience under an abusive parent, I recognize the urgency of keeping children safe and the violence in forcibly removing a child from their home without a stable alternative. Even if there is a need to remove the child from immediate danger, how would you feel if you always had to move? It hurts to find out you have to switch schools and you don’t even have a say. Separating families always comes with the risk of harming children.I cannot overstate how hard it is to be taken away from everything and everyone you know. At 12, I was placed in a children’s shelter along with my younger brother. I very quickly aged out of the shelter and was moved to a group home for teenage boys. The trauma of being forced to leave my brother behind has never left me and deeply informs my views on family separation in the system, not just from parents but between siblings as well.

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