• This Bright Spot has been reviewed and approved by our community of impacted parents.

Parent review feedback summary

  • Parent reviewers highly recommended the practices for humanizing Black lives, though voiced concerns about the ability or willingness for workers to do so.
  • Parent reviewers offered ways to build on the practices with recommendations such as affirming the need for workers to remain unbiased, calling for laws passed to protect African American families, and requiring workers to specifically outline why a kin may be ineligible as temporary caregiver.
  • Parent reviewers also suggested an agency work with communities to identify and solve root problems of poverty and neglect.

What is the intervention?

These are practice recommendations from the proposed Minnesota African American Family Preservation Act (AAFPA).

AAFPA, meant to protect the best interests of African American children and promote the stability and security of African American families in MN, was introduced to lawmakers in Minnesota, but failed…twice.  

The bill includes some provisions requiring lawmaker approval, such as a call for an oversight council, grantmaking to local African American-led service providers, and guidelines for avoiding termination of parental rights, but a collection of other practices from the bill highlighted here can be implemented immediately.  

The AAFPA practices reflect a lens through which those who work with children and families can view to overcome racial biases when supporting Black families. Founder of MN nonprofit Village Arms and primary author of the AAFPA, Kelis Houston is implementing practices outlined in the bill in a MN county pilot project. She offers myriad mindset and practice shifts illustrating AAFPA practice in an interview for Bright Spots. 

What makes it a Bright Spot?

Practice shifts alone (without legal provisions or structural change) can reduce arbitrary and unnecessary removals of African American children from their families, so these practices are recommended.

However, relying on individual mindset shifts isn’t enough. “We don’t have time for hearts to change,” says AAFPA author, Ms. Houston.

Akin to the Indian Child Welfare Act protecting Native youth and families, the AAFPA outlines both structures and practices for prioritizing the connections and stability of Black families. Consider implementing the AAFPA structural provisions in addition to the practices here.

What steps can you take?

Recommended practices for immediate use are highlighted in an interview transcript with Kelis Houston. Several include: 

  • Help social workers realize it’s everyday decisions (not just policy and law) that create the issue of disproportionality. 
  • Slow down, think through things differently, and push back on some of the culture across the agency to remove kids and ask questions later. 
  • For jurisdictional leaders, be willing to audit the work of individual workers to use as a training tool. Track with which workers disparities show up, then train and work through what is causing inequitable practice. If it doesn’t change, let them go. 
  • The African American community is so different than others; don’t lump our issues together with challenges facing all children and think you’ll get the same results. 
  • To foster parents, come in knowing you are a temporary solution. Support parents and understand that what you read is one side of the story. Don’t fight biological family wanting to care for their family members. Don’t look to adopt kids who are on a reunification track. 
  • Codify these practice changes into agency policy and procedures.


These materials may help provide additional context and information about this family-approved resource for systems change.

Let us know any information to consider adding to this Bright Spots practice.

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