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Children’s Aid Society of Alabama’s Commitment to Social Responsibility

Our world is deeply interconnected; the impact of social media has made this increasingly evident. Social responsibility can take on different personas as it relates to organizations in distinct industries. Within the realm of family and child-serving agencies, cooperating with other organizations for the benefit of the community is a core component of being socially responsible. Telling the story of how we embody social responsibility has never been more crucial because we are interested in engaging with community partners to activate and share our resources, as well as partner with us as we continue efforts to strengthen our communities. Children’s Aid Society of Alabama recognizes the profound impact we have on the lives of the children and families we serve in Alabama, and we’re proud of the inroads we are making to inform parents, child-serving professionals, and educators through our online training offerings nationwide. Our programs and dedicated professionals who work tirelessly to enhance the well-being of children and families are truly benefiting society. On February 21st, we celebrated our 112th birthday, and we plan to share more of our stories as this year progresses.

Advocacy for Children’s Rights

At the heart of our mission lies a deep commitment to advocating for the rights of children. We believe every child deserves a safe, loving home in which to grow and thrive. Our organization collaborates with local and national stakeholders to prioritize the well-being of children and support efforts to promote access to education, protection from abuse, safe housing, and job opportunities. Our Independent Living program (IL) works directly with youth in Alabama’s foster care ages fourteen – 21. This team is primarily staffed by individuals with lived experience in foster care. Their experience deeply informs their interactions with youth because they have a shared perspective.

Everyone in foster care has an individual history. Yet, the struggles and the paths to triumph are best communicated by people who have successfully forged their paths through foster care, and they help give voice to those currently in foster care so their needs are better served. Independent Living also mentors standout youth in care who serve as DREAM Ambassadors. In collaboration with Alabama State Department of Human Resources, IL informs our youth about such educational and vocational resources as: ILP Funds for tutoring assistance, employment aid, and more; Alabama’s Fostering Hope Scholarship and the Alabama Education and Training Voucher Program; housing assistance is also available through Alabama’s Foster Youth to Independence Program. IL and the DREAM Ambassadors host monthly outreach events in counties throughout Alabama as listening sessions to understand youth needs as well as to share these resources and basic life skills. With the importance of celebrating every child’s wins in mind, IL presents an annual Graduation Celebration. A national study found that about 60% of foster youth graduate from high school or earn a GED, compared to 91% of the general population. There are significant challenges to youth in foster care graduating from high school; from frequent moves to consistent academic support and disproportionate disciplinary actions in the academic setting due to gaps in trauma-informed approaches to interacting with our youth. Celebrating their achievement is a worthwhile endeavor, and we invite the people of Alabama to share their support and encouragement for our scholars in care by donating to our annual Grad Bag Campaign. These funds provide each graduate with a special duffel bag, filled with essential household items, school supplies, curated resource lists, personal care items, and more. Finally, the IL team hosts two summer camps for our youth. These camps are a safe haven, where youth can connect and have fun without a sense of feeling “othered” by their experience in foster care. Mentorship is key, and engaging with our youth as summer camp staff is deeply meaningful.

Community Engagement and Education

The heart of social responsibility is awareness and education. Our programs actively engage with the community to raise awareness about the challenges facing children and families. Through classes, workshops, webinars, conferences, and community events, we empower individuals with the knowledge and resources needed to create a supportive environment for every child.

Our Alabama Pre/Post Adoption Connections (APAC) program is multi-faceted. APAC services are the result of our collaboration with Alabama DHR. One service APAC offers is extensive online and in-person training opportunities for parents and child welfare professionals. APAC’s webinars are accessible to anyone in any location, and the training provided is approved by the National Board for Certified Counselors and the Alabama Board of Social Work Providers. The successful adoption of waiting children in foster care is aided by APAC from the start of the adoption journey with Trauma-Informed Parenting Strategies (TIPS) classes. These adoption preparation courses are essential because love is a wonderful place to start, but this course addresses the unique needs of children who have experienced trauma, engaging parents in a warm environment, which facilitates learning to parent adoptees from a deep place of compassion and understanding. The wealth of trauma-informed education provided by APAC is a great service to our state.

Additionally, our Child Trafficking Solutions Project (CTSP) works with a broad range of stakeholders from law enforcement to concerned citizens and government officials to effectively prevent, recognize, and respond to child trafficking. The Children’s Trust Fund of Alabama helps make this powerful program possible. CTSP’s events are tailored to meet the needs of the specific audience they are interacting with, which is key to forming coalitions that will effectively mobilize community-wide efforts to prevent abuse, raise awareness, and increase the safety of our children. CTSP is a multi-disciplinary team composed of professionals from diverse skillsets and industries: first responders, law enforcement officers, health and mental health professionals, juvenile justice workers, other child-welfare agencies, human trafficking organizations, and schools; standing united in CTSP’s mission to establish uniform response protocols from a trauma-informed perspective and share an extensive network of support services for survivors. The collective knowledge provided by these professionals and their varied backgrounds also makes them well-informed advocates empowering all of us to become agents of change.

Strong families begin with effective parenting. Our Effective Parenting Instruction Course (EPIC) program offers free parenting classes in both English and Spanish to Jefferson and Shelby County parents. This program is provided through our partnership with the Alabama Department of Child Abuse Neglect and Prevention/Children’s Trust Fund of Alabama and presented in collaboration with the Jefferson County Family Resource Center. EPIC’s training is conducted in accordance with the evidence-based Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) curriculum. These courses give parents the tools to create an environment that utilizes a more democratic parenting style that provides children with healthy choices and promotes responsibility, improving communication between parent and child. This approach helps children learn through natural and logical consequences. EPIC’s qualified instructors also emphasize shaken baby prevention and safe sleep and smoking cessation.

At times, direct intervention is required to keep families together. This is where our Family Partners program steps in. The professionals on this team provide intensive case management to preserve family unity when children are at risk of removal from the home and to reunify families whose children have been temporarily removed. Noting that 40 percent of children are placed in the foster care system due to parental substance abuse, Family Partners team members hold the distinction of being recovery coaches, as certified by The Association for Addiction Professionals. Serving twenty-one counties across the state through our partnership with Alabama DHR. Providing intense, in-home intervention access to supportive resources, and deep parental education helps families stay together in a stable environment.

Parenting at any age comes with challenges. The trials and risks are multiplied for young pregnant and parenting mothers with unstable housing. Project Independence (PI) works with these young mothers, ages 16-21, providing safe temporary housing while taking on important skills training. PI’s team coaches and mentors these mothers as they address ways to empower themselves and become cycle-breakers for their growing family. Individualized plans are designed to help each participant reach educational and career goals, decrease occurrences of child abuse and neglect, and increase the ability of these young families to stay together. Working with such organizations as Navigate Housing and One Roof, PI helps young mothers build strong foundations for themselves and the future of their children.

Strategic Partnerships

Addressing social responsibility requires a collaborative approach. We’ve shared information about our partnerships with various entities and we would be remiss not to include our long-standing partnership with the United Way of Central Alabama. Children’s Aid Society of Alabama is honored to be a founding partner of the United Way of Central Alabama, and their continued support has helped us change enumerable lives in our century of partnership. As we grow, our organization actively seeks partnerships with businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organizations that share our commitment to creating a better future for children. By fostering these alliances, we amplify our impact and work together to implement sustainable solutions to societal challenges.

Social responsibility is not merely a buzzword; it is a guiding principle for the Children’s Aid Society of Alabama. Through advocacy, community engagement, and strategic partnerships, we are actively shaping a future where every child can experience the love and support they deserve. Together, with the assistance of our community and resolute partners, we are nurturing hope and working towards a brighter tomorrow for the children and families of Alabama.

 

Arema Granger

Marketing Communications Coordinator

agranger@childrensaid.org