Our systems of care are in crisis: Dr. William C. Bell speaks at his alma mater, Delta State University

Addressing social work students and practitioners at his alma mater, Delta State University, in Cleveland, Miss., Casey Family Programs President and CEO Dr. William C. Bell talked about turning communities of crisis into communities of hope. The 3 1/2-hour continuing education lecture was part of the university’s annual Margaret Tullos Field Symposium. This year’s symposium was titled, “Systems of Care in Crisis.”

Bell, however, stressed that as our thinking and practices directed at serving vulnerable children in this country have evolved, rather than systems of care in crisis, what we have are communities in crisis.

He said that systems have improved and they continue to improve, and acknowledged that the nation still has a long way to go. “We need to get better at addressing the needs of children in the context of their families and communities,” he said. “We need to strengthen communities and restore hope to them as a strategy to secure the well-being of children and families.”

He gave several examples of child welfare jurisdictions across the country doing just that – working toward sustainable community-based solutions and embracing the role of the community in building a more effective child welfare response.

In addition to re-examining and redefining the crisis, Bell discussed strategies for restoring hope to communities, such as expanding the child welfare response paradigm to include family and community well-being and reforming the federal finance system that funds child welfare, enabling jurisdictions to do so much more than maintain children in foster care.

Jed Oppenheim, senior advocate for Mississippi Initiatives at the Southern Poverty Law Center, also delivered a lecture at the symposium.