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Black Male Youth Raised in Public Systems
Engagement, Healing, Hope
Edited by Sheryl Brissett Chapman, Ralph Belk, Jasilyn Morgan, and Krystal Holland, with Bruce Tyson and Omore Okhomina
ISBN: 978-0-87101-588-4. 2023. Item #5884. 260 pages.
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The plight of Black male children who are removed from their families and placed under the care and supervision of public agencies is driven by historical vulnerability to racist and discriminatory policies, practices, and systems in this country. They face chronic and persistent stereotyping and are at heightened risk for every form of social ill including incarceration, health and mental health disparities, poverty, violence, reduced life expectancy, and ineffective participation in the workforce and larger society. The public systems that these Black male youth must navigate are fundamentally not designed to help them overcome trauma, heal, and thrive as they transition to young adulthood. In fact, when we place them in these systems, the trauma and lack of understanding are maximized.

Using firsthand accounts from 200 Black adolescents, Black Male Youth Raised in Public Systems: Engagement, Healing, Hope validates the fears, anxieties, and complexities of these youth. The authors point to the need for adults to “get out of the way” so they are better positioned to obtain access to understanding how these youth consider their life journeys and under what terms they allow a relationship with an adult, which is critical and necessary for their healing.

Specifically, the book presents alternative frameworks that invite practitioners to reconsider their approach and encourage academics to explore new avenues of inquiry. In addition, the authors make a case for this group to be a protected class, which would require enhanced and culturally informed social advocacy. Readers will gain practical strategies for moving the art of engagement beyond trauma-informed practice to healing and recovery. The overall purpose is to encourage a sense of urgency rather than fear in every professional’s ability to facilitate the healing of Black male youth who, by the very nature of their circumstances, trust no adults and experience no true safety.
Norman W. Powell

Introduction: Unfinished Business and the Sequelae of Racial Slavery
Sheryl Brissett Chapman

Chapter 1: Inquiry as Intervention: The Team and the Method
Jasilyn Morgan

Chapter 2: The Mythology versus Black Male Legacy: A Literature Review
Sara Karim and Krystal Holland

Chapter 3: Living the Life
Ralph Belk and Bruce Tyson

Chapter 4: The Survival Culture of the Black Community: Positive Development and the Family’s Protection of Black Boys
Sheryl Brissett Chapman and Ralph Belk

Chapter 5: Concentrated Manifestation of Trauma: Young, Black, Male, and Voiceless
Sheryl Brissett Chapman, Ralph Belk, and Jasilyn Morgan

Chapter 6: Caught Up: Black Male Youth in Public Systems
Bruce Tyson with Ralph Belk

Chapter 7: An Intersectional Vision: Equality and Protection for Black Male Youth Placed in the Care of Public Systems
Omore Okhomina and Sheryl Brissett Chapman

Chapter 8: The Art of Engagement: From Trauma “Informed” to Healing
Krystal Holland and Omore Okhomina

Conclusion: Beating the Odds While Giving Tribute to the Journey
Sheryl Brissett Chapman, Ralph Belk, Krystal Holland, Jasilyn Morgan, Bruce Tyson, and Omore Okhomina

About the Authors and Research Team
Sheryl Brissett Chapman, EdD, LHD, EdM, MSW, ACSW, is the Executive Director of the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF). She is a passionate advocate and internationally recognized Black American expert in child and family welfare. During her 30-year tenure, Dr. Chapman has stewarded NCCF from a small, local orphanage to a nationally accredited organization with a multimillion-dollar annual budget serving more than 50,000 children, youth, and families in the National Capital Region.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Brown University, Dr. Chapman obtained an MSW from the University of Connecticut as well as doctoral and master’s degrees in education, administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard University. She publishes and presents on a wide range of topics, including juvenile justice, systems reform in child and family welfare, poverty and homelessness, childhood trauma, domestic violence, culturally competency, and trauma-informed practice with Black male adolescents removed from their families and placed in public child welfare and juvenile justice systems. As an adjunct associate professor, she taught a year-long family and child welfare course for more than 30 years at the Howard University School of Social Work and contributed to the graduate preparation of more than 800 social workers in the region, teaching at both the master’s and doctoral levels.

Dr. Chapman coedited the first Child Welfare Journal to address Black children in the nation’s child welfare systems. Her work continues to garner recognition both internationally and locally. She facilitated the development of the first formal child protection system in the Pacific Basin for the U.S. Department of Public Health and presented on cultural competency at the first national conference on child abuse in Israel. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). She also served on the second Jerry M. Consent Decree Panel for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; there, her research led to programmatic redesign and deinstitutionalized an outdated system of juvenile services. Recently, Brown Uni¬versity conferred an honorary doctorate of humane letters to Dr. Chapman in recognition of her achievements as an advocate and nonprofit innovator, and her iconic leadership of the 1968 Black Student Walkout, which helped to transform student activism in that era. The university also recognized her with the John Hope Award for Public Service.

Dr. Chapman’s investment and continued dedication led to this inquiry into best practices for serving Black male youth in out-of-home care and the development of the following interdisciplinary research team to implement this important endeavor. She affirms essential child welfare ideals that promote cultural representation of governing boards and staff in organizations that serve Black children, youth, and their families throughout a community-based continuum of care.

Ralph Belk, LCSW-C, LICSW, currently serves as NCCF’s Deputy Executive Director, Program Administration. He holds a BSW from Texas Christian University and a MSW from Case Western Reserve University where he was nationally recognized as a Centennial Leader in 2016. He has been a national peer reviewer for the Council on Accreditation (COA), and served as a president of NASW, DC Metro Chapter. Mr. Belk is highly experienced in direct practice, including in mental health counseling; crisis intervention; behavioral health and case management; child welfare; treatment foster care; housing; and support services working with high-risk children, youth, and families in nonprofit, community-based, and school-based settings. He has 25 years’ of expertise providing operational oversight, regulatory and contractual compliance, and leadership to 20 direct service programs through program-level integration, policy development, supervision and training, quality assurance, outcome measurement, and financial management.

As a Black man, Mr. Belk possesses special insights in providing mental health and behavioral health services to Black male youth who are experiencing persistent and chronic mental illness and moving them from homelessness to employment, housing, and self-sufficiency. His scholarship and advocacy emphasize the societal and community need to support healthy child and family development and family well-being as well as to ameliorate the negative impact of current social and economic challenges. He facilitates numerous workshops on trauma and the engagement of Black male adolescents at national interdisciplinary conferences, including, but not limited to, the NASW Annual Conference, Council on Social Work Education, and the Institute of Mastery and Integration. A native of Washington, DC, a son, father, godfather, uncle, mentor, brother, and husband, Mr. Belk has also mentored more than 20 Black male youth over the past 25 years, engaging them in middle or high school and supporting their adolescent development as they successfully transitioned into young adulthood as fathers and as husbands.

Krystal Holland, BA, CRCCPA, CEC, currently serves as NCCF’s Training Management and Program Fidelity Administrator and Executive Director, Training Institute. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Maryland–College Park and a certification in executive coaching.

A Black woman, Ms. Holland is the first certified and private agency Child Care Program Administrator to serve as a member and then chair of the State of Maryland Board of Residential Child Care Program Professionals, which certifies child and youth care professionals. She currently serves as the program administrator of the agency’s residential programs, serving vulnerable children and youth removed from their families due to abuse, neglect, victimization, and delinquency. She has more than 30 years of administrative, managerial, and direct service experience serving at-risk children, youth, and families and has expertise in youth development, residential childcare, teenage pregnancy prevention and parenting, curriculum development, and training. She also possesses expertise in evaluating program training needs, designing professional development interventions, and implementing executive coaching and training models that grow the talents and abilities of professionals to effectively match the needs of the children and youth in care.

Ms. Holland’s training oversight ensures programmatic fidelity, fosters a high-performance workplace culture, and has recently led to the launch of a training institute: a consulting group and training flagship that provides cross-disciplined, practice-focused training and workshops on diverse and cutting-edge topics in human services. She has a special ability to build culturally competent and diverse teams and to enter external organizations with this intent. In 2021, following the publication of a major public exposé on building an antiracist culture, she was recognized by Walt Whitman High School in Maryland, one of the top-performing majority high schools in the nation, for training staff and faculty.

Sara Karim completed her master’s in education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education in 2021 and now works as a consultant for UNICEF. Originally from Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, she completed her bachelor’s degree with a focus on child and adolescent psychology at Southern New Hampshire University. She began working with NCCF as a volunteer in 2016, when she attended National Cathedral High School in Washington, DC.

In the summer of 2018, Ms. Karim worked as Dr. Chapman’s executive intern, surveying 128 foster and kin relative parents regarding their placement preferences, nature of placement disruptions, and training needs. She is highly skilled and experienced in managing cross-cultural perspectives and communications, with exceptional empathy for the homeless population, poor children, and youth of color.

Jasilyn Morgan, MPH, currently serves as NCCF’s Administrator of Quality Improvement and Contract Compliance. Ms. Morgan has a master’s degree in public health from Indiana University with specializations in cultural competency, applied health research, and human sexuality training. Her research expertise is in sex, gender, and reproduction. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology with concentrations in Black American studies, gender studies, and sociology.

Ms. Morgan is a Black woman with more than 20 years of expertise designing culturally tailored interventions, leading large-scale institutional review board research and evaluation studies, and conducting performance quality improvement activities across diverse academic, government, and nonprofit human services environments. An expert in human subject protection, evaluation methodology, and outcome reporting, she conducts needs assessments and engages in advocacy to enhance supports and resources for Black male youth disproportionately affected by intersecting traumas, disparities, and pervasive inequality.

Ms. Morgan delivers local and national presentations, prepares publications, facilities training, and shares best practices for serving families plagued by multigenerational poverty. Her extensive direct services experience includes providing trauma-informed services to Black male youth and serving youth with child welfare and juvenile justice involvement who live in out-of-home residential care. In addition, she is an expert in leading educational workshops for and tutoring youth in homeless shelters; conducting outreach and needs assessment research with homeless and unstably housed youth; providing child advocacy and parent engagement support for youth with incarcerated parents; delivering sex education workshops with male youth; facilitating HIV prevention trainings with LGBTQ youth; and providing tailored health education, life skills development, and employment support to young adult survivors of domestic violence and human and sex trafficking. In her current role, Ms. Morgan conducts qualitative and quantitative research utilizing an intersectional analysis and translates complex statistical analysis into relevant, actionable information that fosters program and policy innovation. Her application of social justice framework for research inquiry and intersectional interventions fuels agency-wide decision making and drives performance results that optimize life outcomes for Black male youth and their families.

Omore Okhomina, MEd, JD, CRCCPA, serves as NCCF’s Administrator for Adolescent Programs, overseeing residential and school-based programs serving youth placed in out-of-home care or who are at risk. A Maryland Certified Residential Child Care Program Administrator, he also holds a master’s in education and a Juris Doctor from the Howard University School of Law. He is a member of the DC Bar.

Mr. Okhomina possesses a keen understanding of both educational and legal systems. With his extensive juvenile justice experience, he has provided child-centered intervention training to corrections officers and youth workers in the juvenile justice setting. He mentors at-risk Black male youth in the community; possesses expertise in Black male youth engagement using qualitative evidence; and develops culturally competent, community-based, positive youth development interventions in numerous settings. With more than a decade of teaching experience in urban and inner-city classrooms, he has an exceptional commitment to transmitting knowledge of Black culture to Black male children, youth, and their families.

Bruce Tyson, LCSW-C, LICSW, serves as NCCF’s Director of Quality Improvement. He received a BA (cum laude) and a MSW from Howard University and, for the past 10 years, has worked in various capacities within the District of Columbia and State of Maryland’s child welfare system.

A Black man and independently LCSW in two jurisdictions, Mr. Tyson’s expertise includes direct service as a community social worker who serves youth and families in the District of Columbia, direction of a therapeutic foster care program in Maryland that serves youth and young adults, and agency coordination of external social work and clinical internships. Mr. Tyson has more than 10 years of experience serving youth and young adults in independent living, ensuring program compliance, performing data collection activities, and conducting quality assurance evaluations of residential, school-based, and foster care programs. He has extensive expertise in youth-focused program development, coordination of program services linkages with community systems that serve Black male youth and their families, and the provision of clinical supervision and oversight to therapeutic staff serving Black male youth in out-of-home care.
Black Male Youth Raised in Public Systems: Engagement, Healing, Hope is a compelling and must-read book for social work scholars, students, and practitioners. This is a roadmap for anyone interested in going beyond rhetoric to action. The book provides an in-depth and unflinching understanding of youth involved in public systems while simultaneously challenging society’s perceptions of what it means to be young, Black, and male in America. The book is inspirational and pays tribute to every Black male child that has felt invisible and misunderstood.

Anniglo Boone, PhD, LICSW, ACSW
Executive director, Consortium for Child Welfare
Adjunct faculty, Howard University School of Social Work
Earn 6.0 CEUs for reading this title! For more information, visit the Social Work Online CE Institute.