White supremacy culture largely focuses on the individual rather than the communal.83 All families need support at some time, whether it is help working through conflict, fiscal emergencies, death of a loved one, or harm that has occurred among family members. Currently, our society intervenes in ways that are consistently unhelpful and punitive, especially to Black, Native, and Latinx families, and families living in poverty. Intervention happens at an individual parent or child level and ignores broader societal responsibilities that require attention. Rather than providing families with what they need, these interventions often require individuals to comply with what is being offered or is contingent on eligibility categories linked to federal or state funding requirements.84 Parents, youth, and extended family are deterred or fearful of seeking help from government systems because they don’t believe they will get the help they need. We support shifting power away from state-sponsored interventions that are coercive and harmful. We support restructuring how help is provided by shifting power to families and communities and ensuring they have the resources necessary to promote healing, address harm, and be responsible to each other.
Restructure financing to prioritize care and support for all families.
Current funding mechanisms are insufficient to support families and prevent child maltreatment. To receive support, families often must meet specific eligibility criteria. For example, the Family First Prevention Services Act requires an assessment of “candidacy” and a determination of “imminent risk” of entering foster care to qualify for support.85 True prevention services should meet a variety of needs of parents, youth, and families without eligibility restrictions. Funding should be increased to communities and grassroots agencies that provide services and supports to families in holistic ways and offer concrete financial help when needed. Families should have the autonomy to identify and receive the support they need and not feel pressured or mandated to participate in interventions that are not helpful or undermine their autonomy. The concept of family should not be prescribed to mother, father, child, or other members of the same household. Services should be engaging, flexible, and adaptable to support families’ unique needs, and designed by and for the people they are intended to serve. Services should not interfere with but rather support and maintain families’ cultural practices and connections. More funding should be allocated to universal supports such as public education, as well as targeted supports such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid.
Invest in families and communities to provide care when conflict or harm occurs.
Families should be able to rely on their communities for help, receive help without punishment, and benefit from help received. Communities also must work to be inclusive and to prevent feelings of disconnection, whether among LGBTQ+ youth, immigrants, parents and youth with disabilities, and others. All need to have a sense of belonging. Help provided should result in deepened connections between families and communities, rather than feeling shunned or demeaned. Help provided by communities should support families in understanding and navigating stressors of child and adolescent development; identity development, including formation of gender identity and sexual orientation; cultural parenting practices and conflicts related to immigration; generational divisions; and other areas that may lead to parent/child conflict. In the rare instances of extreme maltreatment, family and community members should be supported and equipped with the resources and skills to intervene and prevent future harm.
Promote community accountability.
Communities should hold responsibility for rendering healing and accountability when harm has occurred while strengthening relationships with each other. As a result of the legacy of organizing society around punishment and incarceration, relationships have evolved to policing rather than helping and healing. Support should be provided for families and communities to reckon with histories of harm, to address current harm, and to heal from the trauma inflicted by the family policing and other carceral systems. Support should include reimagining and/or remembering supportive and healing ways of being together in community.