LOS ANGELES, CA (May 4, 2022) – California organizations focused on ending mass incarceration, reforming the criminal justice system, and easing reentry for formerly incarcerated people gathered on the west steps of the Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Courthouse on May 4, 2022 to demand a radical transformation of the child welfare system. The existing system has a history of removing children from low-income families—especially Black, Brown, Indigenous, and formerly incarcerated families. These policies destroy generations of families and cause trauma.
The purpose of the rally is “to demand that California and all its counties dismantle policies and practices that continue to harm our families and communities,” said Vonya Quarles, Founder and Executive Director of Starting Over, Inc. “Three of my children were adopted out, and it was challenging to get my grandchildren out of the CPS system some twenty years later. It’s generational—I was in foster care, my children were in foster care, and my grandchildren—the harm the system causes over generations proves it’s not working.”
Those leading the protest stated the Child Protective Services—which currently operates as a family regulatory system, with its current practice of criminalizing poverty and treating low-income families as neglectful—should work towards ensuring that all children have access to their families and that all families have free access to the resources needed for children and parents to thrive.
Existing system demands, such as counseling sessions, mandatory drug testing (even in cases with no substance abuse), housing demands, and class requirements cost time and money, a challenge for low-income families who often must work multiple jobs to provide for their families. “The CPS system places demands on parents that are often impossible to meet,” said Diane Figueroa, an All of Us or None Organizer with A New Way of Life. Reflecting on her experience of abuse as a child within the foster care system and later losing custody of her children as an adult, Figueroa continued, “Families are treated like animals—the system breaks us.”
Rally participants discussed the need for a system that recognizes the strength and importance of family, community, and culture in a child’s life and prioritizes family members as the first option for the placement of children. “The care of my daughter by my aunt made it a lot easier for me to be involved in her life and gave me the strength and encouragement to get myself together,” said Chantell Waterhouse, an All of Us or None Organizer with A New Way of Life. “This is what all parents and children deserve.”
The rally consisted of over 35 community activists and members of the public and was organized by A New Way of Life Reentry Project, All of Us or None, CripJustice, Family Reunification, Equity & Empowerment (FREE), Underground Scholars, and Starting Over, Inc.
About A New Way of Life
In 1998, Susan Burton founded A New Way of Life Reentry Project (ANWOL) to help women, families, and communities break the cycle and heal from the formidable experiences of incarceration. ANWOL advances multi-dimensional solutions to the effects of incarceration, including: (1) providing housing and support to formerly incarcerated women for successful community reentry, family reunification, and individual healing; (2) working to restore the civil rights of formerly incarcerated people; and (3) empowering, organizing, and mobilizing formerly incarcerated people as advocates for social change and personal transformation.
A New Way of Life is confronting harmful stereotypes and demonstrating that alternatives to incarceration are possible. ANWOL is breaking the cycle of recidivism, repairing families, and developing leaders. The organization’s approach is built upon four key values that are necessary to promote community reentry after incarceration: (1) every person has inherent value and holds the power of possibility and transformation within them; (2) public resources are better invested in opportunities for transformation than on prisons and punishment; (3) formerly incarcerated people must be at the forefront in creating solutions to the incarceration crisis; and (4) incarceration of a family member affects the entire family and the healing process must involve the entire family. For more information about A New Way of Life Reentry Project, visit: www.anewwayoflife.org.