Denver, CO – September 26, 2012 - Over 100 community leaders representing religious congregations, nonprofit organizations, and other community groups gathered at the African-American Community Summit on Child Welfare in Denver on Saturday, September 22nd at Emmanuel Christian Center. The summit began with a casual breakfast where participants networked with new and familiar faces. Co-host of the summit, Pastor Alvin Simpkins from Emmanuel Christian Center provided a vibrant welcome and participants heard from city leaders such as District 8 Councilman Albus Brooks, Colorado Department of Human Services representative Sharon Ford and Denver Human Services Manager Penny May. Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock offered a welcome and set the stage for his administration’s priorities of kids, jobs and safety via a pre-recorded video.
During the summit, the Disparity Action Committee provided data that shows Denver’s African American child population is an estimated 11%. However 30% of child welfare cases in Denver involve African American children, a number Denver Human Services would like to change. That significant difference is what drew Pastor Simpkins to get involved.
“When I heard that African-American children are almost four times more likely to be involved in child welfare than their Caucasian counterparts, I knew I needed to reach out to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect our children. I believe it starts here in the community, in the churches, and the schools, and I want to be sure we are answering that call and driving change,” said Pastor Simpkins.
Councilman Brooks echoed Pastor Simpkins passion adding, “Too many families struggle in isolation and too many children suffer the consequences of not having community support.” He urged attendees to “listen to each other and walk away with a plan of action for how we can help our own community and our children.”
The summit attendees broke up into discussion groups and covered topics on child welfare policy and decision making, working collaboratively with the child welfare department in Denver, the disparity in foster care availability, as well as a brainstorming discussion on how everyone in the community can play a role in keeping Denver’s children out of harm’s way. The discussions provided candid insight from community leaders who brought forth the community’s concerns, needs, questions and ideas.
Denver Human Services had both their leadership team and staff members on hand to listen and learn from the community leaders about their experience with the child welfare process and procedures. Penny May, Manager of Human Services, who was appointed into the position by Mayor Hancock about a year ago, said, “We have been focusing internally for the past year defining what it is we do and what it is we need to do. It is time now for us to bring the community into that process in deliberate and meaningful way.”
The agency will review all comments brought forth and will release a summary of the event and an action plan for next steps in addressing over-representation of African-American cases in child welfare.
The summit was sponsored by the Denver Human Services Stand Up For Me campaign that searches for qualified families who can provide a safe home to children in need. For more information about the campaign or how to become a foster family, visit www.denvergov.org/FosterCare or call 720-944-4000.