It has been over four months since George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020. Massive and sustained protests have continued throughout the nation. Last month, another man, Jacob Blake, was shot in the back seven times by the police in Wisconsin. Protesters seeking justice have been severely injured and died.
The Statement by AFCC California Chapter was inspired by the movement that arose after George Floyd’s death. His death was a turning point. Countrywide. On an individual and organizational level. But as we get further away from that awful day in May, we must force ourselves to dig into the hard work of reforming, repairing and healing.
AFCC California has begun to examine its own shortfalls with the goal of becoming an organization better able to help all children and all families facing the family law system. We look forward to hearing from our members and the broader family law community on how we can best achieve that goal.
The footage of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, pleading for his life as a white police officer knelt on his neck sparked nationwide and international protests and calls for police reform. Many businesses and organizations have produced statements in support of police reform and Black Lives Matter.
The AFCC-CA Board of Directors supports the Black Lives Matter and anti-racism movements and joins with those in our community that strive to end systemic patterns of racism against communities of color. The American Psychological Association in its recent letter to Senators Lindsay Graham and Diane Feinstein sought an acknowledgment that racism is a “public health crisis”; AFCC-CA agrees. Commonsense police reforms would aid in ending the systemic racism that has devastating effects on families AFCC-CA aims to help.
AFCC-CA also shares concerns over the way our country is separating immigrant children from their families. Children have been left unaccompanied in the United States after their parents or guardians were deported, and our government has had difficulty keeping track of where many of these children are. Many of these children have suffered anxiety and depression, yet their mental health, as well as their physical health, has not been adequately addressed. The effects of these family separations will have short- and long-term consequences, and at some point, many of these children are likely to enter the Family Law, Dependency and Juvenile Court systems. While they will need legal support and guidance on how to obtain needed relief, most shall not be able to afford an attorney and will be self-represented. AFCC- CA and its interdisciplinary resources need to be there for this vulnerable population. AFCC-CA members can provide pro bono and low fee services outside of the court system and can encourage their peers to do the same.
In addition to calls for police reform and ending family separations, recent protests have moved communities and organizations to examine structural racism in the United States more generally. Many organizations are scrutinizing their own history, their own makeup, and their own practices. AFCC-CA is one of them.
AFCC-CA focuses on improving the lives of all children and families going through the family law system. Approximately 75-80% of the people going through the family law system represent themselves in court. Many of those are people of color. In the past, AFCC-CA’s board, membership, presenters and attendees at conferences have not been representative of these litigants. Diverse representation allows for diverse viewpoints and gives voices to people at the margins. Diversity will make AFCC-CA stronger and more responsive to the communities it aims to serve. AFCC-CA can and will do better.
AFCC-CA makes the following pledge:
- AFCC-CA will educate itself on the systemic racism in the family law system.
- AFCC-CA will expand its training to include disparities in policing, employment opportunities, housing, education, and healthcare, all of which intersect with and impact the families coming through the family law system.
- AFCC-CA will prioritize outreach to professionals who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color).
- AFCC-CA will make its board more diverse.
- AFCC-CA will make its annual conference more diverse and giving voice to people at the margins.
- AFCC-CA will create a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council to assist AFCC-CA in accomplishing these goals.
Recent events have brought uncomfortable, but necessary, discussions of systemic racism and what we as individuals and organizations can do to address and correct these conditions. AFCC-CA should gather its prodigious resources and work to be part of the solution.