Staffer shares insight on system reform efforts

 Children's Home Society of Washington Policy Lead Alise Hegle and Baltimore Department of Social Services Director Molly McGrath Tierney attend the National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in Washington, D.C.

Children's Home Society of Washington Policy Lead Alise Hegle and Baltimore Department of Social Services Director Molly McGrath Tierney attend the National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in Washington, D.C.

I was honored to speak at this year’s 20th Annual National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 as part of membership in the Birth Parent National Network, which works to promote and champion birth parents as leaders and strategic partners in prevention and child welfare systems reform.

Sponsored by the Children’s Bureau’s Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, the conference brought together professionals, researchers, policymakers, parents, and volunteers with various expertise who share a commitment to improving the well-being of children and families.

The plenary session included birth parents with former involvement in the child welfare system and foster youth alumni as well as national child and family services leader and personal hero of mine—Molly McGrath Tierney, director of Baltimore Department of Social Services.

We were able to lend our insight into key components related to the Family First Prevention Services Act, proposed bicameral, bipartisan legislation that would provide services to families to keep children in the home as opposed to removal into foster care. These services would include in-home parenting, substance abuse and mental health services.

I work at Children’s Home Society of Washington because we envision communities where families truly thrive with access to quality supports and services, compassionate and strengths-based delivery, and the prevention of increased trauma and negative outcomes in a child’s life.

As a mom who has navigated the child welfare system and overcome substantial obstacles to be where I am at today, my hope is that more families can have an opportunity to not only heal, but to prevent the need to heal in the first place.

Alise Hegle is an advocacy project manager and policy lead for Children's Home Society of Washington.