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Carolyn Graham sends statement to CBS 6

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Carolyn Graham

Below is the complete, unedited statement from Carolyn Graham, Richmond’s Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Human Services, that was emailed to CBS 6 News on Saturday:

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CBS 6 INVESTIGATES: State investigates Richmond’s Department of Social Services 

Media Statement for Carolyn Graham — December 8, 2012

I have worked tirelessly in the area of human services for nearly 30 years and am deeply saddened by the recent negative comments brought against my leadership role as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Richmond. As with any job involving children and vulnerable populations, I understand and respect that there are often differing opinions regarding appropriate policies and procedures.
Having devoted my life to the wellbeing of children and families regardless of race, creed, color, or class, I have always acted with the best interest of the children, individuals, and officials I serve. It is regrettable that certain individuals through their self-serving interest and political calculations are seeking to tarnish the reputation I have spent a lifetime building.

There may be those who disagree with my philosophy about the poor and disenfranchised, but my commitment to ethical public policies that work for those who cannot speak for themselves is always at the forefront of my commitment to public service.

It is important also, I believe, that one understands my role as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) in overseeing the Department of Social Services and Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities, and, until April of this year, the Department of Justice Services; and the independent agencies of the Department of Public Health, Libraries, and Richmond Behavioral Health Authority. As the DCAO with oversight responsibility for these agencies, their management is left in the hands of skilled, qualified public managers who run the day-to-day operations of their organizations. My role is to give executive policy guidance and support to the leaders who manage their agencies; I am not directly involved in how they ensure that services are delivered.

Any personnel actions concerning my possible departure are not open for public discussion at this point.

Over the last six years or so, states’ child welfare agencies across this country have grappled with what’s best for children, and Virginia is no exception. As agencies have grappled with the poor outcomes of children emancipating from the child welfare system, they have realized that other strategies needed to be considered that focused on keeping children safe within the family context.

When the data are surveyed across the state of Virginia, you will see that all agencies have reduced the number of children coming into public care. The City of Richmond moves in lock step with other localities in the state in keeping children in families while ensuring their safety. The good results that have been realized by the City over the past six years is testament to the good work of social workers, courts, families and communities that have worked together to ensure child safety.
To be clear, while I support the philosophy of family preservation, it is not at the cost of sacrificing children.

I have never made a statement regarding the inappropriateness of white families fostering black children as well as white social workers working with black families.

About a year ago, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at the local chapter of Black Social Workers of America’s conference. I was asked to speak on the issue of “disproportionality”, which deals with the number of children of color, specifically Black and Brown children that are overrepresented in the child welfare systems across America. My remarks and presentation focused on the facts such as the numbers of children who are placed in public care, who languish, and who are moved from home, to home—often as many as seven time, and who eventually age-out at either 18 or 21, and are completely unprepared to manage life. Many transition from public care into other systems of public care, such as prisons, homelessness, and public welfare—lives steeped in poverty—for the rest of their lives. After presenting the facts associated with the disproportionate representation of Black and Brown children in these system, I discussed ways that must now be considered to change the outcomes for these children to ensure that they might have better life options.

With respect to the Department of Juvenile Justice. I have not had oversight for juvenile justice since April or early May of this year. That function was transferred to the Mayor’s Chief Policy Advisor who reports directly to Mayor Jones. Prior to the transfer of the department, funding was established for the key categories where new services would be established to ensure that the new justice center (jail) was adequate for the appropriate population. Funding was established under the “alternatives to incarceration” category; implementation was to be led by the new leadership of that department.

The Elizabeth Ministry is a non-profit, which I established. The Elizabeth Ministry’s mission is to restore the lives of pregnant and parenting teens that are near aging-out of the foster care system. Too many of these young people end that journey broken, and at great risk, as are their children of entering public care. The Elizabeth Ministry’s goal is to support the development of 25 teen mothers and their babies, while housing them in a comprehensive community that seeks to help them become healthy and productive young adults. To bring the ministry to fruition, I have worked tirelessly for the past 7 years, using my own personal time once I came to Richmond, including many long nights and most weekends. I have been paid for that work just as other ministers are and I will continue to be directly involved with its mission.

I regret the mix-up regarding contacting a local TV station in response to their questions. I was asked to respond to questions and did so, not completely understanding the official process for distribution of a press release to the media and how that should be handled.