Children's Voice Oct/Nov 2005

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World Renowned Artist Lends Support to the Children's Memorial Flag Campaign


He has created art for the White House, the World Bank, the Florida Supreme Court, and a host of other well-respected organizations. In April, artist and activist Xavier Cortada added CWLA to the list.

Cortada donated his time to create a National Message Mural as an offshoot to the CWLA's Children's Memorial Flag initiative, unveiling the artwork at a CWLA-sponsored Children's Memorial Flag event April 22 at the IDEA Public Charter School in Washington, DC, where it will be displayed for 10 years.

"What a wonderful idea to have a mural about you, that's about hope," Cortada told an assembly of students, staff, and local officials gathered at the school to honor the Children's Memorial Flag and to witness the mural's unveiling. "It's about ensuring each and every one of you is protected, and that each and every one of you has a bright future."

Cortada explained that the children in the mural are holding hands to symbolize the importance of young people supporting one another. "We want to make sure you are the very best parents in the future, and the best students today," he said.

Similar to the red Children's Memorial Flag, depicting five doll-like figures of children holding hands, including the white chalk outline of a sixth child in the center representing a child lost to abuse or neglect, Cortada's mural also features six children holding hands. But unlike the figures on the flag, the children in Cortada's mural have facial features, and their bodies are mosaics of different shades of blue against an orange-red background. The sixth child in the center is different shades of pink.

Surrounding the children are dozens of messages about nonviolence and the importance of nurturing children. In the weeks before the mural's creation, CWLA gathered the quotes from concerned citizens and CWLA members and staff nationwide. Also included are notable quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Maya Angelou, Eleanor Roosevelt, and other famous figures.

The IDEA Public Charter School was selected to display the mural because of a partnership established between CWLA and the school's students and staff following a series of arson attacks at the school in December 2004. CWLA helped create a poetry curriculum at the IDEA School, and participating students held a Poetry Slam during CWLA's 2005 National Conference. Several students again read their poetry during the April 22 flag and mural event. Many of the poems explored issues of violence and crime prevalent in urban settings.

More of Cortada's artwork, including the National Message Mural, are displayed on the artist's website at www.cortada.com.

No Caps on Kids! Campaign Leaves a Mark on Capitol Hill

On a wintry day last March, hundreds of CWLA members descended on Capitol Hill with one goal in mind--to lobby against a proposed "cap on kids." Wearing buttons that read, "No Caps on Kids!" in bright red letters, they asked Senators and Representatives from their home states to reject a cap or block grant on federal funding for foster care and adoption assistance proposed in the President's FY 2006 budget.

The President's budget had laid out a plan to put a cap or block grant limiting spending on the federal funding states would receive to provide foster care. The Bush proposal meant states would have received a fixed amount of funding each year to provide assistance to all children who need foster care, instead of receiving funding based on the need and number of children eligible for federal foster care assistance.

Shortly after the President released the proposal, CWLA launched its No Caps on Kids! campaign to draw attention to foster care, adoption, and other child welfare programs in potential jeopardy, and to ensure the proposal was not incorporated into the FY 2006 budget resolution.

The Hill Day event during CWLA's 2005 National Conference in early March, put CWLA members in direct contact with lawmakers. CWLA staff prepped members before the visit with workshops explaining the federal budget process, the changes being considered under the proposed budget, and the potential effects at the state level.

For those who could not make it to Washington, CWLA staff worked with League members in key states to encourage them to call and write their local lawmakers, particularly in Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island--all home to members of the Senate Budget Committee, which is responsible for crafting a budget resolution. CWLA also provided talking points, sample editorials, and regular legislative e-alerts to member agencies, and established a central location on the CWLA website (www.cwla.org/advocacy/nocapsonkids.htm) with detailed information about the budget process and the No Caps on Kids! campaign.

In late April, Congress approved a final FY 2006 budget resolution that directs House and Senate committees to pass legislation reducing federal spending for mandatory or entitlement programs by $35 billion.

"Although the requirement to cut $35 billion is disappointing," says CWLA Senior Government Affairs Associate Tim Briceland-Betts, "it is less than the $69 billion proposed under an earlier version of the resolution, and it reflects the impact the No Caps on Kids! campaign and the child welfare community's local efforts played in the budget negotiations.

"In Washington, many organizations are focused on advocacy to protect other programs, but when it comes to ensuring that supports for abused and neglected children are protected, CWLA's No Caps on Kids! Campaign, and the child welfare community's local efforts, lead the way."

He adds that Ken Olson, with Kids Peace of New England in Maine; Penny Wyman, with the Ohio Association of Child Care Agencies; and Janet Arenz with the Oregon Alliance of Children's Programs were instrumental in mobilizing advocates in their states to get the message to Congress about not placing a cap on kids.

At press time, Congress continued to deliberate how to come up with the savings and which programs to cut. The deadline for authorizing committees to report their recommendations was set for the week of October 17. The budget committees were scheduled to act on these recommendations the following week.


First-Ever Reconciliation Conference Set for October

In Niagara Falls, on land bordering the United States and Canada, leaders in tribal and nontribal child welfare services from both countries joined together October 26-28 during a first-ever conference--Truth and Reconciliation in Child Welfare: Mapping the Path to Healing.

The event began a process of reconciliation between the mainstream child welfare field and indigenous peoples in the United States and Canada and was jointly sponsored by CWLA, the Child Welfare League of Canada, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, and the Centre for Excellence for Child Welfare at the University of Toronto.

"We have not done a good job in this country of serving Indian children in ways that are respectful to them and their families," explains John George, Senior Consultant with CWLA's Trieschman Center for Consultation and Training. "We hope the conference will mount a movement to serve Indian families in a way that says we respect who they are, their traditions, their strength and capacity to develop solutions better than ours, and the ways and authority of their tribal governments."

The conference, where some 200 invited guests were expected to attend, sought
  • to clarify an understanding of history and the requirements for reconciliation in child welfare,

  • for indigenous and nonindigenous leaders in child welfare to commit to promoting reconciliation in child welfare for the benefit of indigenous children and youth,

  • to establish a strategic plan and action steps to influence policy and practice, and

  • to establish a toolkit of resources and technical assistance for communities in both countries to use when entering into a regional or local child welfare reconciliation process.
Following the October conference, regional and national forums in both countries are expected--and may be integrated with previously scheduled conferences--as participant leaders share results and expand discussion. Information about the project will be posted on CWLA's website as it becomes available.

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