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Advocating Change

DCS partners with Birth Parent Advisory Board

You might not have heard of it yet, but the Birth Parent Advisory Board has a message for parents, one that is at the center of what the group was created to do.

You can be heard.

“No matter what your experience was with DCS, good or bad, these people at DCS are wanting to use people’s personal experiences to help shape policies and better families across our state,” said Keshia Buskirk, a member of the Birth Parent Advisory Board. “To be a part of that and to just feel heard in your personal journey is huge, but to be able to effect change for future generations, potentially, I think that is huge in this Birth Parent Advisory Board. It says a lot about DCS that they are recognizing that we need to be able to hear from these people as well to be effective.”

The board was created about a year ago and currently comprises birth parents and DCS employees.

Its purpose is to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate policies, practices and services that impact children and families. The board wants to build a bridge between the foster parent community and the birth parent community while effecting policy changes so DCS can be of better service to families.

DCS is committed to partnering with the board to help accomplish many goals. They include strengthening and supporting families, engaging the community in child maltreatment prevention strategies and activities, reducing out-of-home placements and decreasing the rate of child maltreatment reports.

Buskirk started out in the system, homeless and hopeless, she said. She struggled with substance use disorder. During recovery, she said one of the things God kept putting into her heart was that it wasn’t all going to be in vain. Being a part of the new board now feels like her story is coming full circle.

“For me to be a part of it and to be able to advocate not only for change within DCS, as far as their approach with families, but also to advocate – where else do you get a free case manager, in-home, that you meet with, that helps you figure things out? And I also had a home-based therapist once a week,” she said. “For me to be able to advocate for my fellow addicts, especially, that’s where my heart’s at, to get the services they need, especially in your more rural communities, and at the same time advocate for change within DCS as far as approach so people can trust them more as well. That means everything.”

The board meets monthly – virtually, for now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic – and is still planning future projects.

They include a website, flyers and an online application for anyone who might be interested in being a part of the board, all coming soon. The only requirement is having been in the system.

“I had a great experience with DCS, but I also know some other people who didn’t have the best experience with DCS,” Buskirk said. “The fact that we get to use our voices – people who have been in the system – we get to use our voice to say what worked for us, what didn’t work for us and how we would like to see it be better and more effective in families and in communities … It’s really a beautiful, beautiful thing."

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