Families Are Seen and Heard in New Child Welfare Podcast

Posted December 16, 2021, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

A white man sits in a recording studio, wearing headphones. The man is smiling and wearing glasses. A microphone is in front of him.

Matt Anderson, host of Seen and Heard

Spo­ken-word poet Slam Ander­son riffs about her fos­ter care expe­ri­ence and her bond with her moth­er in Seen and Heard, a new pod­cast series from the Insti­tute for Fam­i­ly, a grantee of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

I’ve got­ta be more than a sta­tis­tic,” Ander­son declares in her poem, My Need for Change.” 

Ander­son recites the poem as part of Seen and Heard’s debut episode, What If We Didn’t Have to Wait Until Bad Enough.”

Anderson’s fam­i­ly lived apart for more than 12 years, but her moth­er went to lengths to main­tain their ties even when dis­cour­aged by the child wel­fare system’s rules. They describe love’s tri­umph over bureau­cra­cy and fam­i­ly tragedy. Daugh­ter Ander­son and moth­er Lil­lie Lee-Williams pose poignant ques­tions: What if the child wel­fare sys­tem had helped them nav­i­gate the caus­es of fam­i­ly stress, togeth­er — rather than sep­a­rate them? How would their lives be dif­fer­ent if the fam­i­ly had been pro­vid­ed the resources to han­dle finan­cial strains, deal with hous­ing, secu­ri­ty and safe­ty needs and get counseling?

Slam Anderson’s poem could serve as an anthem” of the fam­i­ly well-being move­ment, says pod­cast host Matt Ander­son (not relat­ed), direc­tor of the Insti­tute for Fam­i­ly and vice pres­i­dent for pro­grams and busi­ness devel­op­ment at the Children’s Home Soci­ety of North Car­oli­na. He hopes the podcast’s sto­ries will chal­lenge assump­tions about peo­ple served by child wel­fare systems. 

He curat­ed sto­ries that show­case fam­i­lies in their whole­ness and what hap­pens when oth­ers start to see them that way. Guests include par­ents involved in child removal cas­es, youth who have aged out of fos­ter care and child wel­fare lead­ers who inform sys­tems change. Sev­en episodes make up Seen and Heard’s first sea­son, released Octo­ber through Novem­ber 2021. A new sea­son will begin in ear­ly 2022.

I’ve spent the past year and a half talk­ing with par­ents from all over the coun­try who have expe­ri­enced the child wel­fare sys­tem,” Matt Ander­son says. I heard over and over that we have to start see­ing par­ents for who they tru­ly are and not their cur­rent cir­cum­stances. This shift in per­spec­tive has changed me and how I approach my work. My hope is that this pod­cast will do the same thing for our audience.”

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