Councilmember Brianne K Nadeau's Work on Child Welfare System
Councilmember Nadeau is carrying her focus on protecting all District children from abuse and neglect forward into the new year. Building on her past efforts to turn a child welfare system focused on placing children in foster care with strangers into a child and family wellbeing system, Councilmember Nadeau continues to take bold action to improve, and exercise vigorous oversight of, the District agencies serving our children.
- In 2019, Councilmember Nadeau introduced a bill establishing an Ombudsperson for Children, an independent, impartial office responsible to the Council tasked with improving outcomes for CFSA children by holding agencies accountable for fulfilling their responsibilities under the law. For two years, she fought CFSA to get the bill right, passed, and funded, and last year, the Council overcame a Mayoral veto to pass the bill into law. The Office of the Ombudsperson for Children was funded at nearly a million dollars at the first possible opportunity. After consulting with local child welfare leaders, the Councilmember then decided to take the time to get the selection of the first Ombudsperson right, overseeing an extended competitive bidding process for a national executive search firm to engage with community members to find a visionary leader for the position. An esteemed firm with national reach and a history of placing transformative child welfare leaders has been hired and is now in the process of onboarding to begin its critical work.
- Councilmember Nadeau is working to expand eligibility for subsidies that keep children out of poverty. The Grandparent and Close Relative Caregiver Programs keep children out of foster care and poverty by providing direct cash assistance to low-income relative caregivers. Councilmember Nadeau recently worked with community stakeholders to build on a law submitted by the Mayor to get rid of waiting periods for these programs and to expand eligibility to reach families that were previously left out. The “Grandparent and Close Relative Caregivers Program Amendment Act of 2021” is up for a first vote in the full Council on February 1, 2022.
- The Councilmember avoided harmful, disruptive gaps in CFSA leadership by timely holding a hearing on the Mayor’s nominee to lead the Agency, setting the confirmation resolution for the first available markup date on the Committee’s calendar and carefully vetting one of the most important cabinet-level positions in District leadership. Community sentiment was unanimous that the nominee should be confirmed, and, because of Councilmember Nadeau’s efforts to get a strong nominee timely confirmed, CFSA will have a steady, competent, and compassionate hand at the helm for years to come.
- Building on years of experience doing so, Councilmember Nadeau will continue to exercise the most vigorous Council oversight of CFSA in the Agency’s history. Councilmember Nadeau recently submitted nearly fifty pages of comprehensive, searching questions to the Agency, to which CFSA needs to provide comprehensive, searching answers. Every option for transformative change is on the table to hold the Agency accountable and protect children and families.
- Councilmember Nadeau has been working for months on tailoring an approach to make the Child Fatality Review Committee more effective, accountable, and transparent and to reevaluate CFSA’s approach to kinship diversion. Every District resident caring for a child needs to be fully supported, fully informed of their rights, and fully prepared to care for our community’s most vulnerable young people. And every child who passes away, or who nearly passes away, in Agency custody deserves a thorough accounting of the causes of their death and concrete, achievable steps to ensure that what happened to them never happens again. Review committees can’t provide a remedy for hurting families, but they can chart a course forward to make it so fewer families are grieving in the future. Councilmember Nadeau, as a new member of the Child Fatality Review Committee, has never missed a meeting, and she expects the same commitment from other District government leaders.