Nestled safely within University Circle, members of the Case Western Reserve University community are often shielded from the social realities of the urban landscape. And the critical issue of foster care for children and adolescents remains one of the unspoken realities in this city.
According to a weekly flash report provided by the Cuyahoga County Division of Child and Family Services, there are over 1900 county children currently in foster care. Although these children live away from the CWRU campus, the university community is not untouched by this issue.
“The measure of a society [lies] in how it treats its most vulnerable members,” explained Jill Korbin, associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Schubert Center for Child Studies and the Childhood Studies Program. “There are an unacceptable number of children who age out of foster care. Society needs to make some attempt to help them become productive members of society with their own jobs and professions.”
After all, the reality remains that some children who live in foster care may never attain higher education. “There are many difficult effects [that can stem from foster care],” said Kate Lodge, senior supervisor for the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services. “Teenagers and sibling groups become separated, children experience a lack of resources, and adolescents age out of the system with very few contacts.”
To bring attention to the foster care system, the Schubert Center for Child Studies at CWRU is partnering with the Cuyahoga County Division of Child and Family Services to host the play “Sometimes Hope is Enough.” Michael Oatman authored the play, which is original to the Karamu House, a landmark of Cleveland’s east side and the oldest African American theater in the United States. The Karamu House has served as the foundational site for many great talents, including Langston Hughes.
The play tackles the important issues surrounding foster children, who often age out of the system without the essential skills and resources needed to begin life on their own. The play also highlights the resilience of these children, who must rely on themselves and each other to overcome unfortunate and seemingly hopeless circumstances.
The performance will start at 5:30 p.m. in Strosacker Auditorium on Thursday, April 19. A discussion of foster care among a panel of experts will follow the live event. Panelists will include Gregory Ashe, executive director of Karamu House; David Crampton, associate professor from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences; Jacqueline McCray, deputy director of Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services, Resources, and Placement; and Melinda Sykes, director of Children’s Initiatives under Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine.
This event does not mark the university’s first involvement in policy affecting children, since the Schubert Center continues to advocate for children through multiple vehicles. The Center facilitates the Childhood Studies minor within the College of Arts and Sciences, which offers interdisciplinary coursework for issues concerning children and the experience of childhood. “The minor can be applied to all kinds of disciplines,” explained Sarah Robinson, assistant director of the Schubert Center.
In addition, the Schubert Center hosts public dialogues on relevant areas of child-related research, drafts policy briefs tackling the implications of research relating to children, and organizes special events to promote effective policy for children and families. The Center also offers an externship program for qualified undergraduates, making CWRU one of the few institutions in the country that places undergraduate students, rather than solely graduate students, in externships involving child policy.
“[A student’s] education is not divorced from these issues,” Korbin noted. “They are the next generation of people who will be looking at these [problems] and solving them.” Students who are interested in learning more about the Schubert Center for Child Studies can visit the Center’s website for more information.