Welcome to the Toolkit for Transformation

Building an international parent-led movement fighting for families affected by child welfare

In this toolkit, you will find information and resources that parent advocates and their allies around the world have created. We envision the toolkit as a way that we can learn from each other’s experiences as an international community building the power of parent advocacy.

The parent advocacy movement seeks to build the power of parents who have been impacted by the child welfare system to advocate for change, support other families going through the system, raise up solutions that exist outside the system and improve children’s lives.


Parent Advocates from Around the World

  • In 2016, my two young daughters were removed after I was in a domestic violence relationship. I was isolated and had experienced trauma, not only from my situation, but also from the child protection system and its processes. I sought support for my children to remain safely in my care, but found that I had no support and no voice.

    Advocacy changed the outcome for my youngest daughter, who was restored to my care in early 2019. I am passionate about working towards improving the child protection system to have a greater restorative focus and increasing support for families to be in their children’s lives.

    Shantelle Common

    Australia, Family Inclusion Strategies in the Hunter

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  • I am working to help families get the things they need and want in their communities. If communities had everything they needed to thrive, there would be fewer child welfare investigations in the Black and brown community. If parents had a place where they could go and get help without any judgment, it would be better for families and communities.

    Keyna Franklin

    The United States, Rise

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  • I live in the North End of Winnipeg, where 1 in 6 children is apprehended from their families. We have the worst child welfare ratio in all of Canada. The North End is predominantly First Nation, and roughly 90% of kids in care are Indigenous. It’s a broken system that needs to change.

    Mary Burton

    Canada, Fearless R2W

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  • My mom was a single, poor parent who struggled with five children. We were placed in foster care and separated from each other, but I beat the odds, became a first-generation college student, and started an organization to help other foster youth. Then a few months after the birth of my child, I was falsely accused of child abuse. I had to fight the system for over four years to prove my innocence, clear my name and get my child back.

    In my city, Chicago, Black children are taken away from their families at three to four times the rate of any other race. Poor families, Black families and Indigenous families lack the resources to defend themselves against a system that treats parents as guilty until proven innocent and is a pipeline into the prison system for foster youth. Money spent on taking children away and furthering their trauma could be better used helping families get what they need to survive.

    Tony Lawlor

    The United States, Family Justice Resource Center

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  • We are working for the unity of families around the world so that parents know that there is help, support and care somewhere for them. We are working for the right of families to stay together as much as possible and for parents’ voices to be heard.

    Bobbi Robertson

    Australia, Family Inclusion Network (Queensland) Townsville, Inc.

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  • In 2013, I started advocating to place children back with families that are drug free, domestic violence free, alcohol free and stable. I have helped get 92 children home. I am well-known in child safety departments, but I don’t work for no government departments. I travel on my own expense. I am committed to the work I do just to make another child happy.

    Cephia Williams

    Australia, Brisbane’s Sovereign Grannies Group; Queensland Parent Advisory Committee

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  • Against all odds, I got my children back in my care, and then I realized how important it is for other parents to have support, getting the right services at the right time and working with people who treat you like you’re part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

    The essence of the work I do with families stems from my experience that the best way to help children is by helping their parents. Children want to be with their parents and parents want to be what their children need. I believe this is a global truth that can be understood in every language.

    Heather Cantamessa

    The United States, Re-Unify Family Solutions

    Read more
  • As a child I was a ward of the state, and then my daughter was removed after a false accusation. The state stole my past and it tried to take away my future. They actually used my childhood in care against me.

    I thought I was the only one until I started talking about it and I learned that it is a pandemic. All over the world people who have experienced the gross injustice and pain of having their children removed have started groups, but because everyone is scattered there is very little impact. If we come together, the power of this movement can change child protection. There is a better way.

    Taliah Drayak

    Scotland, Parent Advocacy and Rights

    Read more
  • The voices of impacted families should be embedded in the infrastructure of child welfare. Policy and practice in the child welfare system should be co-designed and co-implemented by impacted families.

    Sabra Jackson

    The United States, NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services

    Read more
  • I am part of the first part advocacy program in my country. My job is to be an expert knowing what it’s like to be in “the system” and helping child welfare professionals know what it’s like. I love getting the opportunity to make parents voices louder and louder.

    Sari Lähde

    Finland, Asiakkaasta Kumppaniksi Hanke

    Read more
  • For almost 20 years, I have worked as a parent advocate, organizer, leader and manager of programs for parents and communities. In my own life, I have experienced the injustice of the child welfare system and other systems as a youth, parent and now as a grandparent.

    As an advocate, I assist and support families to overcome barriers that separate them. I work to empower parents and help them to advocate for themselves and their families so they can stay together.

    Teresa Bachiller

    The United States, Rise

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  • When I was trapped in the child welfare system, I felt utterly isolated and stigmatized. I became an advocate for the purpose of creating a peer support network so that those of us dealing with the trauma of child custody loss would no longer be alone and so that we could be a strong and unified voice.

    Michelle Chan

    The United States, California Families Rise

    Read more

Videos Featuring Parent Advocates

  • Speaking out

    Parent advocate Angela Frazer-Wicks speaking about “the forgotten, discarded, forgotten birth mums” in a video made by United Kingdom’s Family Rights Group to give the other side of the story during National Adoption Week.

  • In their own words

    In this video from PAR (Parent Advocacy and Rights), Scotland, parents speak about the pain of children in care.

  • Rise & Shine

    In 2019, Rise, The United States, launched the Rise & Shine Parent Leadership Program to build parents’ skills and power to advocate and create safe and strong communities.

  • Fighting racism

    Grandparent activist Latonia Rolbiecke and ally Kelis Houston speaking at a press conference in support of the Minnesota African American Family Preservation Act.

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