CCAI was honored to host a delegation of Guatemalan judges, child welfare administrators and social work professionals for a judicial and administrative child welfare training tour in the United States in April 2013. We invited these individuals to participate in our Pathways to Permanency project because of their direct involvement in the welfare of children in Guatemala. Our hope is that this exchange will inspire these individuals to become agents of change in their own communities.
Washington, D.C. • New Orleans• Dallas
In Washington, D.C., the delegates visited the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and received overviews on the U.S. dependency system from Presiding Judge of the D.C. Family Court Zoe Bush and the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency. Judge Bush gave the delegates an insider’s view of how moving to a “One Family, One Judge” court model has transformed the way they serve children and families. The group then observed a kinship guardianship hearing in which a grandmother sought guardianship of her three granddaughters under the protest of one of the children’s biological fathers. Through this hearing, the delegates were able to get a better sense of how important it is to have all parties interest, but most especially the child’s, represented in court.
While at the court they also met with D.C. judicial child welfare resource organizations including the Children’s Law Center of D.C., the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, and the Child Protection Division of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the U.S. Department of Justice. Discussions centered on the role of the attorney in child welfare, and the importance of giving voice to children, youth and parents in legal proceedings. A presentation on social workforce capacity strengthening followed, with International Social Services – United States of America, the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance and CapacityPlus. The delegation discussed the vital role of the social workforce, and how judges and lawyers can play an important role in elevating and valuing this profession in Guatemala.
On day two in Washington, he delegates met with Assistant Secretary George Sheldon and Commissioner Bryan Samuels at the Administration for Children, Youth and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services and were briefed on the role of the U.S. federal government in child welfare, as well as some of the major shifts in U.S. child welfare law and policy and lessons the U.S. has learned over the past several years. This meeting was followed by a briefing by officials at the Office of Children’s Issues in the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Center for Excellence on Children in Adversity at USAID onthe role each of these U.S. agencies in intercountry adoptions and international child welfare.
While in Washington, the delegates also met with United States Congressional leaders including Senators Landrieu, Klobuchar, Menendez and Sessions, and then attended a welcome reception at the U.S. Capitol Building with local child welfare and business leaders and comments from Ambassador Francisco Villagran of the Embassy of Guatemala and Carlos Duran, Founder of Hombres de Palabra (Men of Their Word).
New Orleans, Louisiana
Judicial and Systems Training
Graciously hosted by the Supreme Court of Louisiana in New Orleans, the delegation met with world renowned Doctor Dr. Charles Zeanah of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Tulane University School of Medicine. Dr. Zeanah presented the latest brain science related to the development of children in institutional care with a focus on how interventions of family care (parenting skills training, foster care and adoption) have the ability to transform a child’s development in the window before they are 24 months old. He drew upon examples from his research from the Bucharest Early Intervention Study as well as his work in the United States.
The delegation also participated in discussions with state child welfare administrators from Louisiana and Colorado, child welfare policy and subject matter experts focusing on the importance of data, technology and public-private partnerships. Speakers included: Brent Villemarette, Deputy Secretary of Programs, Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services, Sharen Ford, Ph.D., Manager, Permanency Unit, Division of Child Welfare Services, Colorado Department of Human Services, Sue Badeau, Child Welfare Policy Expert, Dr. Mark Testa, Ph.D., Spears-Turner Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Dr. Jean Geran, Ph.D., EACH, Inc.
Several judges also lent their expertise to the trainings: Judges Guy Bradberry, Thomas Duplantier, Ernestine Gray, Patricia Koch, Madeleine Landrieu, Sharon Marchman all left their dockets to spend time sharing and learning with their Guatemalan counterparts. The group discussed the similarities and differences between U.S. and Guatemalan laws, the importance of making timely decisions in court, systems improvement and national and local judicial leadership.
Engaging in Regional Best-Practices and Implementation
In Dallas, the Guatemalan delegation first met with Texas State child welfare leaders Audrey Deckinga, Assistant Commissioner for Child Protective Services at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services; Tina Amberboy, Executive Director at the Texas Supreme Court Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families; and Pamela K. Parker, Special Projects Attorney at the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services. They shared with the group about Texas’ past five years of reform efforts and how they as a state have made significant progress through collaborations, partnerships and policy changes.
A highlight of the visit to Dallas for the delegates was the opportunity to hear about models of best practices in care from their colleagues in other countries in Latin America. Esli Moreno, Coordinator of the Honduran Family Strengthening Project at the Orphan Institute Permanency Center in Honduras, Claudia Leon, Executive Director of Buckner Peru, and Dr. Cecilia Casanueva, Ph.D., Research Psychologist at Research Triangle International with a project in Chile each shared the challenges their programs operate within in each nation and the importance of best practice models and data tracking to make the case for family care of children in these nations.
Finally, the group had the unique opportunity to learn from Buckner International’s country and program directors about lessons Buckner has learned in its over 100 years of caring for children and families. Dr. Albert Reyes, President and CEO stressed how important it was for Buckner to move from its original orphanage based model to its current community based approach which is now caring for children in 14 countries. They highlighted their Community Transformation Center and Family Pathways models, as well as shared from the non-governmental organization’s perspective on public-private partnerships. Discussions focused on how to adapt and apply best-practice models the delegation had learned about to succeed in Guatemala’s judicial and child welfare systems.
CCAI would like to acknowledge the generous support of the GHR Foundation for the Pathways to Permanency Project.