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Beatrice Lookinghorse sits with two of her grandchildren on Cheyenne River reservation in South Dakota

Akee on American Indian Child Welfare

Associate professor of public policy Randall Akee wrote an article for the Brookings Institution about how inaccurate data on poverty negatively affects American Indian and Alaskan Native children. High poverty rates have been used to justify removing American Indian children from their homes and placing them in state foster or adoptive care systems, he said. The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 was passed to stop this practice and “prioritizes the judgment and decisions of the officials with the most experience and understanding of local conditions and experiences — tribal officials,” he said. He added: “There are important culturally specific safety nets that exist in many American Indian communities, most of which would be unknown to outsiders.” Although poverty measurements may not be accurate, Akee said child poverty rates are still much too high on American Indian reservations.


 

How to Help Queer Kids in Foster Care Author Cris Beam shares insights based on extensive research and personal experience in her Luskin Lecture

By Mary Braswell

LGBTQ youth in the foster care system often grapple with rejection, harassment, violence — and their own mistrust of the individuals and institutions charged with protecting them.

Restoring that trust requires taking a hard look at what these youth really need, not just to navigate the child welfare system but to lead rewarding lives.

This was the message shared by Cris Beam — author, educator and herself the foster mom to a transgender young woman — at a UCLA Luskin Lecture on March 5, 2019.

Beam’s talk included many moments of insight and encouragement, even as she described a foster care system that is woefully broken.

“How can we be spending upwards of $22 billion nationally and nobody — not the kids, not the foster parents, not the bio parents, not the administrators, not the policymakers, not the lawyers — nobody thinks this is working?” she asked.

That question sent Beam in pursuit of answers. Her extensive research into the U.S. child welfare system, LGBTQ issues and the power of empathy, as well as her personal experience becoming a foster parent at age 28, led her to a solution that is both simple and daunting.

What kids in foster care need, she said, is what all kids need: lasting human relationships, whether biological, adoptive or built from scratch with “teachers, babysitters, bus drivers” — people who are willing to step up, learn parenting skills and stick around, Beam said.

“The only way a child can succeed is to connect to a family, or even an individual person, for a lifetime. Whether they are gay or straight or bi or trans or otherwise,” she said.

Beam has published several acclaimed fiction and nonfiction books, including “To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care” and “I am J,” the first book with a transgender character to make the state of California’s high school reading list. She is also an assistant professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

Prior to her lecture on “Queer Care: LGBTQ Youth in Child Welfare,” UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura noted that Beam’s work is in line with the School’s mission to “provide a voice for the unheard and change society in ways that help those most in need, including and especially families and children.”

Beam’s appearance at the UCLA Faculty Center fittingly coincided with Social Work Month and the National Day of Empathy, said Laura Abrams, chair of Social Welfare, which organized the Luskin Lecture.

More than 50 people came to hear Beam’s insights, including students, faculty, lawyers, child psychologists, and current and aspiring social workers. Their questions for Beam revealed frustration at wanting to serve foster youth within a system that often fails them.

“I feel for you because you’ve got so many people,” Beam said of the heavy caseloads many social workers carry. “But if you can stick by somebody and be constant, sometimes you can be that person that is around for someone for years and years. That’s what they need. It’s that human connection.”

LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. To illustrate the cycle that many of them enter, Beam shared the experiences of her daughter, Christina, who was 16 when they met at a group home where Beam taught. Christina had been in and out of foster care since age 7, was jumped into a gang as a 12-year-old boy, survived on the streets by doing sex work, then entered the criminal justice system — all as she transitioned into a girl.

The probation officer who approached Beam about fostering Christina said, “‘Don’t worry. She’s already 16. She only has another year until she ages out.’” But Beam quickly learned that Christina needed much more, including “time to heal, to be stable and to trust.” No adoption papers were needed to form a lifelong mother-daughter relationship, she said.

Building this kind of support network should be a priority of child welfare agencies, Beam said. Instead, the system often labels children who suffer complex traumas as difficult, equates foster children with juvenile delinquents, and squanders resources training teens to get a job, write a rent check, survive on their own.

“Really what queer kids need are not more resources, more things, but human beings to rock with them all the way,” Beam said.

View more photos from the lecture on Flickr.

A Life of Social Work Dedicated to Children and Families Friends and former colleagues gather in tribute to former educator Joycelyn ‘Joy’ Crumpton, ‘an inspiration to everyone around her’

By Stan Paul

Joycelyn Anita McKay Crumpton — “Joy” to all who knew her — spent more than three decades dedicated to a career in social work and helping others.

The former Social Welfare field faculty member at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, who passed away in September 2017, was known for working to create positive change through education, leadership and service where she worked and taught, as well as in the communities where she lived.

Family, friends, faculty, colleagues and former students got together on March 8 at UCLA’s Faculty Center to honor Crumpton’s contributions to the field of child welfare, diversity, and spirituality in social work practice, to celebrate her life and share memories. In addition, a memorial fellowship fund in her name has been established so MSW student recipients may carry Joy’s legacy as leaders and change agents.

View photos from the memorial gathering on Flickr:

Joy Crumpton Memorial

“Joy was loved and respected by students, faculty and community members,” said Gerry Laviña MSW ’88, director of field education in Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin. “She could always be counted on for support, wisdom, and a smile or hug,” he added. As news of Crumpton’s passing spread into the community and among alumni, Laviña, also a UCLA Luskin MSW alumnus, noted that Crumpton’s “positive spirit and words are carried forward through the many MSWs she taught.”

Contribute to the Joy Crumpton Memorial Fellowship Fund.

At UCLA Luskin, Crumpton MSW ’80 also served as project coordinator of the Title IV-E California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) stipend program for MSW students, a post she held from 2004 until her retirement in 2012. Previously, she served as associate director of the UCLA Center on Child Welfare, Inter-university Consortium from 1992 to 1996. In addition, she spent many years in curriculum development and training implementation focused on child abuse and neglect. At the core of her work was the determination to impact those in need — children, adults and families, according to friends, family and colleagues.

“Joy was an inspiration to everyone around her,” said Wanda Ballenger MSW ’73, longtime friend and colleague, who met Crumpton in the 1980s. In 1992, Ballenger hired Crumpton as associate director of the Center on Child Welfare. “Joy was a very social person, who was better at being ‘on,’ ” when it came to meetings and presentations, added Ballenger. In fact, Crumpton was a talented and inspirational speaker. Her audiences included children and youth, parents, graduate students, social workers, probation officers, public health nurses, judges, court officers, community advocates, clergy members, and university faculty and staff, as recounted in a memorial posted online.

In additions to positions at UCLA, Crumpton held a number of training and instructional positions, including lead trainer for the Bay Area Academy and child welfare ombudsman for the Health and Human Services Agency of the city and county of San Francisco. She also founded and directed Family Tree, which provided training and consultation services related to child welfare.

Ballenger said the two stayed in touch despite being far apart. Ballenger recalled that when her husband received a diagnosis of a serious medical condition, even though Joy was fighting her own battle with cancer, she would call every week. “She was just that kind of person,” Ballenger said. “I really miss her. Joy was my sister.”

Throughout Crumpton’s career, she taught and provided fieldwork instruction at a number of institutions, including UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare, San Francisco State University, and USC’s Center on Child Welfare. At UCLA Luskin, Crumpton taught graduate courses in cross-cultural awareness, international social work, advanced child welfare practice and the program’s child welfare seminar. She also collaborated with the University of Ghana to develop a cultural immersion and fieldwork internship for MSW students working in key social service agencies in Accra, Ghana, West Africa.

Jorja Leap MSW ’80, adjunct professor of social welfare, remembered her longtime friend and colleague from their early days as MSW students in the same class at UCLA.

“Joy was one of those who knew early on how to collaborate — how to work with difficult people in all groups — she was a mediator so much of the time,” said Leap, recalling an earlier and far different time in social work. “So much of it involving marginalized populations,” Leap said. “Joy knew early on to work within institutions and organizations to make change.”

Joseph A. Nunn MSW ’70 PhD ’90, former director of field education for Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin, also had the privilege of working with Crumpton.

“Whenever Joy Crumpton walked into a room, she would light it up,” Nunn said. “Her first name said it all. With an infectious sense of humor and a winning smile she did indeed live up to her name by bringing joy.”

In addition to discussing their children and families, Nunn and Crumpton talked about time each spent coincidentally as children in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Crumpton was born in New Orleans.) “Through one of those it’s-a-small-world experiences, we discovered that she grew up four doors away from my cousins who I visited many summers from my home in Los Angeles.”

Citing her background in direct practice, classroom teaching and training, Nunn said in an email: “Joy had a strong commitment to the children served by the public child welfare system. Whether discussing policy issues or practice interventions her strong analytical skills and compassion for this population were evident. ”

He added: “Joy’s engaging personality made it possible for her to quickly connect with others and thus building collaborative relationships was one of her talents. In summary, Joy had class and style like few before her.”