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Crittenton was established in Charlotte, NC in 1903. At its start, it was a home of refuge for “unwed mothers” as well as a place for them to hide their shame. Pregnancy out of wedlock was not socially acceptable in those days, so many women and girls chose to hide at maternity homes like Crittenton during their pregnancy before placing their baby for adoption upon birth. Throughout the myriad of changes during the 20th century, we are proud of what Crittenton is now and the function we serve in the community. Instead of shame, we teach self-esteem and empowerment. Instead of hiding, we provide resources for pregnant women and girls to make a life for themselves once they leave Crittenton.

Crittenton has come a long way; however, have you ever wondered how integration was handled within its walls? Integration technically began in schools in 1954 following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. It took many years to truly implement and slowly, integration spread across more aspects of society. Crittenton began to consider the need that Black women and girls had for its services. It was a need just as great, if not greater, as White women and girls had. 

Society was much more patriarchal at the time, so combining sexism and racism, Black women and girls were often at the very bottom of the social latter – a reality that still lingers today.

In a nine-page document from 1964 titled “Whom We Serve,” a Crittenton staff member uses seven of those pages to describe some of their current clients including their characteristics, stories, struggles, hobbies, goals, and looks. At the end of the seventh page, a paragraph starts with “Perhaps one of the most controversial issues to come up in reassessment of services lie in the movement toward integration.” It goes on to describe how there was a “clash of opinions” on the topic within the Board of Directors and so the debate was dropped. Eventually, though, there was community pressure to integrate services.

In 1963, the Board was broken up into six groups, and each group voted unanimously to approve a “limited program of integration.” The narrative goes on to say how the decision in choosing the first “negro” client had to be as “selective as possible.” They wanted to make sure there weren’t any unforeseen issues to arise. Before accepting the first Black client, they had a meeting with the existing White clients and asked how they felt about living and sharing space with a Black client. They each voted in approval of the decision to integrate commenting that “negro girls needed this service as badly as they did.”

The group of White clients discussed how they can be helpful towards the first Black client when she arrives. It’s likely that the White clients at the home understood what it was like to be ostracized and “othered,” and they didn’t want the Black client to feel that way, too. Apparently, the transition to integration was seamless and the Black client had only positive feedback about her experience.

Crittenton consistently had three to four Black clients at a time from 1963-1964. From there, of course, the integration grew and expanded along with society’s changing attitudes and beliefs about Black people. Today, our client base is over 60% Black. It speaks to the growth the organization has experienced in terms of acceptance, but it also reminds us that Black women and girls are still one of the most underserved groups in America, especially in terms of health equity. We are actively working towards and fighting for a future where this is no longer our reality.

Dazia Miller, MPA

Dazia is a development & marketing associate at Crittenton and works on bringing relevant and less-known discussion topics to the forefront. Please reach out to her email at dmiller@crittentonofnc.org for any ideas, questions, or comments. If you want to be a part of the positive change happening at Crittenton, click here.

After months of discussions and weighing options, one of our foster care clients who would soon be turning 18 made her decision to stay in the custody of the Department of Social Services (DSS) until she aged out at 21. As staff, we felt she made the wisest decision for herself and her future. This is because the “typical” outcomes for a former foster youth are not the most promising. Strikingly, over 60% of emancipated foster youth will earn annual incomes of less than $6,000, which is below the federal poverty line. Only 3-4% of former foster youth obtain a 4-year college degree. Girls in foster care are also almost 50% more likely to become pregnant by age 19. The numbers reflect a multitude of intertwined barriers that exist for foster youth transitioning to adulthood.

In North Carolina, youth aging out of foster care can choose between two options when approaching age 18:  

– Emancipate themselves from DSS custody and move forward as a completely independent adult. 

– Sign a Voluntary Placement Agreement (VPA) and remain in DSS custody until age 21.

 

Many foster youths, just like any other teenager, look to their 18th birthday with a sense of freedom. It means they will finally be able to dictate every detail of their life, minus the oversight implemented by DSS. For those who have had traumatic experiences in foster care, it is understandable why they may be more inclined to rid DSS from their life.  

However, the numbers paint a very different picture for foster youth transitioning to adulthood on their own. Former foster youth have higher rates of experiencing homelessness, mental health struggles, heightened risk for justice system involvement, and difficulty finding and/or retaining a secure and stable job. These challenges would be extremely difficult for a young adult with even the best support system. The vast majority of foster youths, however, lack the support system needed financially and emotionally to guide them through the journey towards successful independence. 

Signing the VPA is a way for them to have that critical support system while greatly enhancing their chances at a financially, mentally, and physically stable life trajectory. The details may vary a bit by county in North Carolina, but generally foster youth can receive the following benefits from the VPA: 

– Coverage of 4-year college tuition and 100% of costs associated with college, permitted they attend a state school within North Carolina. 

– Rental assistance, including for non-college attending youth. This is provided they work a certain number of hours per week if not attending college. 

– Monthly stipend and help with major costs like purchasing a car. 

– Assigned social worker to provide additional support and resources with visits every three months. 

Although some foster youths view the VPA as inhibiting their free will, it doesn’t prevent them from becoming their own legal guardian at 18. They can advocate for themselves now as opposed to a social worker having to approve every single decision they may make. Under the VPA, social worker visits are only every 3 months as opposed to every month before age 18. Even youths who decide against the VPA at 18 can change their mind and return to it up until 6 months before their 21st birthday as long as they are also working or in school. The VPA incentivizes higher education and/or employment, increasing chances of a higher-paying career path. It also keeps a caring adult in their lives through the social worker that will check on them, provide resources, and make sure they are receiving the support they need emotionally and physically during a defining transition to independent living. 

The reality is that the benefits of remaining in DSS custody and signing a VPA are abundant.  Importantly, it increases the likelihood of stable income, promoting upward mobility for foster youth. Simply signing a VPA has the power to completely alter the trajectory of a foster youth’s life, breaking cycles for generations to come.

At Crittenton, the young women in foster care in our independent living program, Legacy Hall, and in our mother/child program, Sarah’s House, who have chosen the VPA path are still in control of their lives while also receiving assistance to make their lives a little easier. They are developing into promising, self-sustaining young adults by attending college, working, and taking advantage of the opportunities placed before them to guarantee a better tomorrow. 

Dazia Miller, MPA

Dazia is a development associate at Crittenton and works on bringing relevant and less-known discussion topics to the forefront. Please reach out to her email at dmiller@crittentonofnc.org for any ideas, questions, or comments. If you want to be a part of the positive change happening at Crittenton, click here.


In the spirit of spooky October, I want to talk about “wicked” problems. These vast problems sure can be scary, but if we work together, we can make them much less terrifying. SO, what exactly are wicked problems? In the realm of societal issues, there exists a category of challenges that defy conventional problem-solving approaches. These are known as “wicked problems.” Today, we embark on an educational journey to explore what makes a problem wicked and why it’s especially relevant to organizations like Crittenton. We’ll delve into how Crittenton addresses these wicked problems and how you, as an individual or donor, can play a pivotal role in helping find solutions.

Understanding Wicked Problems

Wicked problems are not your run-of-the-mill challenges. Coined by Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber in the late 1960s, the term “wicked problems” refers to societal issues that are complex, multifaceted, and resistant to resolution. These problems share several defining characteristics:

No Clear Definition: Wicked problems are often difficult to define due to their multifaceted nature, diverse perspectives, and ever-changing context.

Interconnectedness: The factors contributing to wicked problems are intertwined, making it challenging to isolate individual causes or solutions.

No Ultimate Solution: Unlike “tame” problems that have straightforward answers, wicked problems lack a single, definitive solution. Instead, they require ongoing, adaptive efforts.

Social Complexity: These problems often involve societal and cultural factors, amplifying their complexity.

Wickedness & Crittenton

Crittenton’s mission revolves around addressing the multifaceted, interconnected challenges faced by vulnerable populations, particularly young women and mothers in the foster care system, and pregnant women and girls in general. Here’s how the issues Crittenton works to address can be considered wicked problems:

Interconnected Challenges: Many of the young women and mothers served by Crittenton face a web of challenges—poverty, trauma, substance abuse, educational gaps—that are deeply intertwined and cannot be resolved in isolation.

No One-Size-Fits-All Solutions: Crittenton recognizes that each client’s journey is unique. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the complex challenges they face. Instead, personalized, holistic approaches are required.

Changing Context: The landscape of foster care, healthcare, and social services is continually evolving. Crittenton must adapt and respond to changing policies, societal attitudes, and available resources.

Long-Term Commitment: Addressing the root causes of the challenges faced by Crittenton’s clients is not a one-time effort but a long-term commitment. Success often necessitates sustained support and resources.

You Can Help Find Solutions These Spooky, Wicked Problems

Now that we’ve unraveled the concept of wicked problems and their relevance to Crittenton, you might be wondering how you can make a difference. Here’s your call to action:

Donate: Your financial support can help provide essential services, resources, and programs to those facing wicked problems. Even a small donation can have a significant impact.

Volunteer: If you have the time and skills to spare, consider volunteering with Crittenton. Your expertise can contribute to crafting innovative solutions.

Spread Awareness: Share the stories and mission of Crittenton with your network. Raising awareness about these wicked problems is the first step in driving change.

Advocate: Use your voice to advocate for policies and initiatives that support individuals facing complex challenges. Advocate for the importance of addressing wicked problems at the community and policy levels.

Stay Informed: Continually educate yourself about the issues Crittenton addresses. The more you understand, the better equipped you are to be part of the solution.

It is clear that wicked problems are complex, interconnected societal challenges that demand innovative solutions and unwavering commitment. Crittenton’s dedication to addressing these issues is commendable, but we can’t do it alone. Your involvement, whether through donations, volunteering, advocacy, or awareness spreading, is vital in navigating and eventually solving these wicked problems. Together, we can make a difference and bring hope and healing to those in need.

Written by Dazia Miller, MPA
Crittenton Development Associate

Questions or comments? Contact dmiller@crittentonofnc.org

 

August is Black Philanthropy month! Starting in 2001, Black Philanthropy Month was created by Dr. Jackie Bouvier Copeland with the intention of uplifting and advancing equity for those of African descent through giving. The focus is on highlighting and giving voice to organizations that are by the Black community and for the Black community. As an organization with 50% or more Black leadership and 50% or more Black clientele served, Crittenton stands as a perfect organization to support and elevate this month. The big day of giving is on August 28, but you can give anytime and champion Crittenton’s work here.

As we reflect on the inequities that still remain in our society, it is critical to be aware of them, but also actively work to solve them. We must do more to even the playing field and allocate additional resources for health and success towards those traditionally underserved groups. With our current focus on Black Philanthropy Month, there is an opportunity to be intentional about supporting the Black Community and being a part of the change.

Crittenton’s mission is to promote healing, hope and empowerment by providing comprehensive health, counseling, and education services for single pregnant and non-pregnant adolescents and women, mothers and their babies in the foster care system. This past year, 60% of all Crittenton’s clients were Black women and girls. Most of them came from backgrounds and experiences of trauma, abuse, and poverty, and were either pregnant, and/or in foster care when they arrived.

Crittenton acts as a pause point for our clients – a chance to catch their breath, deactivate survival mode, and navigate their next steps. From the day they arrive, we offer our clients safe and secure housing, regular, nutritious meals, access to prenatal, health, and mental health care, substance use disorder prevention and/or treatment, individualized support and counseling, and vocational and educational training and support. After having their babies or exiting foster care and moving on from Crittenton, many of our clients go on to secure stable housing, employment, and independence. Not only does this positively impact their present quality of life, but also their future and children’s future.

Whether or not you choose to give, we hope you will take some time to reflect on what actions you can take to ignite equitable change in our own Charlotte community. Together, we can change the narrative and create better tomorrows for our clients and for our communities as a whole.

If you want to learn more about Crittenton, please visit our Programs page or check out our social media.