Collaborative to Build Statewide Capacity for Addressing Racial Disproportionality in the Kansas Child Welfare System

Limited seats still available for the in-person Kansas Racial Equity Collaborative Symposium focusing on connection, collaboration, and action planning at individual and macro levels. The symposium is the culmination of activities that transpired over the last year as part of the Kansas Racial Equity Collaborative. It will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Apr. 15, 2022 at the University of Kansas Burge Union located on the Lawrence campus. This event is free and now open to the public for the remaining available seats on a first come, first serve basis. A light breakfast, buffet lunch and snacks will be provided. Email Christina Mott at to register.

Participants at the symposium will have the opportunity to network with others who are directly and indirectly involved in the child welfare system and spend the day discussing specific and concrete ways to advance racial equity in child welfare from their respective roles. Invited keynote speakers include Associated Commissioner Aysha Schomburg, J.D. in the Children’s Bureau in the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, located within the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and, Dr. Jessica Pryce, Assistant Professor, Florida State University and Executive Director, Florida Institute for Child Welfare. The Racial Equity Collaborative symposium will also feature muralist and local Kansas City artist Lucky Easterwood as he paints a live mural during the symposium to capture the hope that the collaborative carries in pursuit of racial equity in child welfare.

In a collective effort to redress systems that perpetuate racial inequities, the Kansas Department for Children and Families, CarePortal, and the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare partnered to establish the Kansas Racial Equity Collaborative in fall 2021. Envisioned as a statewide journey of learning, the Collaborative hosted four virtual lectures that brought together the child welfare workforce and mandated reporters across human service sectors (e.g., health care, education, the court/legal system, lawmakers, faith-based and community-based organization, etc.) to build shared, multi-disciplinary knowledge and accountability in achieving equitable outcomes for children and families of color who come into contact with the child welfare system.

The Kansas Racial Equity Collaborative invited national speakers and experts in child welfare and antiracism to speak in a series of virtual lectures first launched on Sept. 29, 2021. Each lecture centered on a key concept or topic in pursuing racial equity in child welfare. Lecture 1 was the start of a journey with keynote speakers Samantha Mellerson and Michael Finley from Hayward Burns Institute, “Understanding the Historical Context of Structural Racism and Current Day Implications: How We Got Here and a Better Path Forward,” was rooted in history and began a collaborative conversation of the longstanding structural inequities families experience in our past and present. It was a powerful foundation to the learning journey. In Lecture 2 spotlighted Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka, “Addressing Racial Inequities in Child Welfare: View from Early Childhood Education.” Dr. Iruka’s lecture continued the journey in understanding ongoing disparities through data. She called participants to lean into collective accountability around racial disparities and disproportionalities in child welfare and begin to make concrete and meaningful changes within each person’s realm of influence and work. The third lecture, “Debunking Myths Around Racial Inequities in Child Welfare” included a panel of experts, Deidre Ann Calcoate, Dr. Alan Dettlaff, and Ruby White Starr.  Each speaker provided ways for rethinking common misconceptions that contribute to the racial inequities in the child welfare system. The panelist guided participants through debunking the concept of colorblindness, devaluing parents, and the dangerous mindset of “saving children.” The final lecture, “Forward Movement: Shifting from Control of to Support for Black and Brown Families,” included speakers Kristen Webber, Maleeka “MJ” Jihad, Minister Nina Shaw-Woody, and Joni Hiatt. Each speaker not only described what support for Black and Brown families can look like, they urged participants to engage and partner with Black and Brown families in pursuit of racial equity in child welfare. Past lectures can be watched on the Care Portal webpage.

The eight-person leadership team that developed the Kansas Racial Equity Collaborative included Kansas Department for Children and Families Regional Director Shanelle Dupree; Kansas Department for Children and Families Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Brandi Turner; CarePortal Regional Manager Abby Fry; CarePortal Child and Family Advocate Ashley Smith; University of Kansas School of Social Welfare Doctoral Student Kelechi Wright; University of Kansas School of Social Welfare Associate Researcher Dr. Pegah Naemi Jimenez; University of Kansas School of Social Welfare Associate Professor and PhD Program Director Dr. Becci Akin; and, University of Kansas School of Social Welfare Project Manager for Kansas Strong for Children and Families Sarah McCall. The team stated, “We are looking forward to this continued learning journey as a collective and move toward making child welfare a more equitable system.”

To learn more about the Kansas Racial Equity Collaborative events and to watch past presentations, please visit the Care Portal webpage.