What Dr. King's Legacy Can Remind Us About the Child Welfare System


Monday's observance of what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.'s 90th birthday reminds us of his impact on philanthropy and social justice will be everlasting. His candor and presence were enough to inspire the country and enact change in a society that was steadfast in it’s prejudice. On the anniversary of his birthday, we’d like to revisit some of MLK Jr.’s most powerful words and use them as guidance in the upcoming year:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

When working with families who are involved with the child welfare system, it’s important to remind oneself about the hardships they are facing. Think about the incredible toll that being involved with the child welfare system takes on a whole family – the struggle of separating from family members and siblings, of living with strangers, of remaining uncertain about the future of your life.

There’s no denying that working with families involved in the child welfare system is hard for many reasons. It can take a toll on a CASA volunteer who may not see the child they are appointed to thriving in their current placement. It can take a toll on a CPS caseworker who sees a family come back to the system repeatedly even after years of court ordered services and therapy. 

With these speedbumps and barriers, it’s absolutely vital that we don’t get complacent or cynical. A persistent and dedicated CASA volunteer can be that guiding light for a struggling child and their family. A CASA volunteer can advocate for trauma-informed services for a child, for educational needs, for more visits with siblings. A CASA volunteer can take a child on outings to museums and movies that help a child understand more about their culture and where they came from. A CASA volunteer can be that constant in a child’s tumultuous life that never fails to check up on them and see how they’re doing.

“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

At Voices for Children, we always advise our volunteers to be aware of their biases. CASA volunteers are often put in situations they may have never experienced before, and it’s important to understand that every culture, every family, and every human is different from one another. There will be times when a CASA volunteer’s preconceived notions about the world are tested and rearranged.

It’s important to for our volunteers to check their biases and privilege at the door when advocating for a child because what’s in the child’s best interest may not have been what the volunteer had originally thought or would have ever considered. 

When working with the foster care system, it’s important to always navigate with empathy. We as a community must be more empathetic and sympathetic to these children and families who are involved in the child welfare system; it’s the only possible way we can help them heal.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

We encourage you to be that light in a child’s life in hopes of guiding them through the darkness. We encourage you to navigate with love and empathy in hopes of advocating for what’s in the child’s best interest – without personal biases. We encourage you to stand up for children in your community and become a CASA volunteer. The light and love in you can drive out darkness and hate and turn into a powerful voice for a child in need.

Beth FultzComment