Sociological Autobiographies: Volumes 1 & 2

To purchase and download these collections, click here. See below for essay excerpts.

We are pleased to share this two-volume group of essays written in connection to CWLA’s 100th anniversary in 2020. The essays, in the form of “sociological autobiographies”—a term coined by sociologist Robert K. Merton to describe personal reflections within the context of a larger time period—offer insights and discuss child welfare developments, changes in practice over the years, and where we are today related to selected child welfare areas of practice, program, policy, issues, and services. In very individual and pointed ways, these essays detail the success and challenges of child welfare services and highlight the need for continuous learning and improvement.

Many of the essays were written just as the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts hit the United States and profoundly affected the agencies, workers, and families who comprise the child welfare system. This ongoing public health crisis presents a real-time challenge to child welfare; these essays, however, show that because of the nature of child welfare, societal flux and fear always falls within our purview. The child welfare system is, in many ways, built for crisis.

Several of these essays focus on our increasing understanding of the needs of all children, regardless of race, color, age, disability, familial status, religion, sexual orientation/gender identity and expression, genetic information, language, religion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, political beliefs, citizenship, or any other factor. They also serve as a reminder of the important voices of those with lived experience and the power of shared responsibility in working with children and families.

I encourage everyone to read these essays. They will remind you of the work that we have done over the last 100 years, the progress that we have made, and the crucial significance of our continued fight to ensure our CWLA National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare vision that all children will grow up safely, in loving families and supportive communities, with everything they need to flourish—and with connections to their culture, ethnicity, race, and language.
—Christine James-Brown, President & CEO, CWLA


Separation, Loss, and Trauma: Past, Present, and Future Trends in Child Welfare
Victoria Kelly

Reflections on the Journey toward Competent Policies, Practices, and Programs for Youth who are LGBTQ+
Gerald P. Mallon

A Change to Remember: One Community’s Rebirth of their Child Welfare System
Susan Ripley

Child Welfare: Laws May Change, but Attitudes Remain the Same
LaShanda Taylor Adams

A Changing Perspective on Child Welfare: From Teen Mom to Seasoned Professional
Deborah Wilson Gadsden

Ohio’s Medicaid Behavioral Health Redesign: Helping Children and Families Impacted by Substance Use Disorder
Isabella Hu, Andrea O’Brien, and Brittany R. Pope

Reflections on Permanency: A Personal and Organizational Journey
Lesli Suggs and Michael Semel



Child Welfare at the Crossroads: Observations on Evolution and Challenges
Katharine Briar-Lawson, Heather Larkin, and Samantha T. Rini

Tackling Racial Disparities in New York City’s Child Welfare System
David A. Hansell

A Century-long Pathway to Permanency: The Transformation of the Child Welfare System
Joseph M. Costa

Unadoptable is Unacceptable: The Right to a Family and a Home at any Age
Rita L. Soronen

Dismantling Implicit Bias in Child Welfare
Ronald E. Richter

Supporting a Safe Culture that Surfaces Problems: Transforming Child Welfare into High-Reliability Organizations
Heather H. Kestian

Seeing the Forest through the Trees: Rethinking the Meaning of ‘Child Welfare’
Anita Weinberg