Lifeline Stands With the Black Community - A Letter From Don Stump

Dear Lifeliners,

My heart has been troubled over the last week, and I have been struggling with what to say and who to say it to. With the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, we are again faced with the institutional racism and bias that has persisted in our country for decades. We are at a tipping point. Those of you who know me well, know I am a do-er. In my 30 years working in social services in community based organizations, I have served and been part of making changes in the system locally in which you now work, as supporters and advocates for children, youth, and families impacted by institutional racism and disproportionality.
Thinking about this has also made me reflect on and remember the fact that our Lifeline team is already doing a lot—and has been for more than 45 years. Our juvenile diversion, Community Assessment Team, and Alternatives to Detention programs represent 20 years of community based advocacy to develop services in community, closest to where the youth and families live, to intervene on risks that might disproportionately place young men and women of color in the criminal justice system. And we have been successful. Over the last 10 years the County has closed two juvenile lock-up facilities and its Juvenile Hall only operates at one-third its capacity. This is good. This is you and your work. We have made things better—but it is not enough. There is still disproportionality.

The Community Services for Families program where we partner with Child Welfare Services was designed by a community team 20 years ago, also to address children of color being disproportionally removed from their homes in this County. This, as part of an array of interventions, has worked well over 15 years, resulting in less than a third of families being separated through “out of home placement” than were in the mid-90s. And we continue to advocate for the resources to serve more prevention and community referred families in that program to have a bigger impact. This is good and I honor and support the work that you all do to create this outcome for families. But again, as we all know, it is not enough.

So we need to do more.

I am reaching out to leaders in the community, elected officials, partner organizations, and to you to figure out how we can do even more. I know you are feeling exhausted in this COVID-19 world and are now having complex feelings about what is happening to our family, friends, and clients in the community. Lean on each other for support and let’s all be patient with each other and our clients as we continue to feel our feelings and process the events we witness. We are listening.  And both your program leaders and the Cultural Competence Committee are open and listening and looking for ways that we can do more to help our community as Lifeliners. I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

Be well and be safe.