News and Updates

Courageous Conversations

June 14, 2023

We are excited to share a special message for Alicia Smith of the Foster Together Network:

Dear DCFS (Department of Child & Family Services) Friends & Colleagues,

As a Black former foster youth and a fellow DCFS social worker in training, I invite you to embrace the opportunities we each have to better support Black youth. As part of our commitment to children’s safety, permanency and well-being, and in addressing the racial disproportionality within this system, it is essential that we prioritize the cultural identity of young Black boys and girls.

Speaking from my own experience and those of my Black and Brown foster youth peers, sometimes the simple things can be profoundly meaningful. When we are not provided with the appropriate care and products for our hair and skin, we suffer additional trauma and blows to our identity that may be hard for others to understand. This brings me to Opportunity #1: Do not just take it from me — to gain a deeper understanding, check out this short video (in English and with Spanish subtitles). Incredible right?

This brings me to Opportunity #2: There are more tools available at the California Alliance of Caregivers website for hair care and supporting youth and families’ cultural identities. These Courageous Actions resources were compiled by the Foster Together Network
(FTN) in response to a study called Courageous Conversations conducted by the FTN and the UCLA Pritzker Center. The study sheds light on the experiences of Black youth in foster care and provides valuable insights for systemic change. I encourage you to explore these tools (such as virtual hands-on hair care webinars and cultural icebreakers) and this research study.

Within my role at FTN, I have had the opportunity and honor not only to help gather these resources but also to work on a broader campaign to improve care for Black youth. It includes trainings that will roll out in July, cultural coaching for resource families, and partnerships with hair stylists and salons that provide Black youth with proper hair care and knowledge. I invite you and your team to actively participate in Courageous Conversations and Courageous Actions by utilizing the provided resources. Together, I know we can create an inclusive and healing environment for Black youth in our child welfare system.

In Community,

Alicia Smith, MSW
Foster Together Network | An Initiative of the Center for Strategic Partnerships