Are We Solving the Wrong Problem in Child Welfare? with Dr. Jerry Milner

Season 3Episode 11July 29, 2021

Reimagining the child welfare system of the future.

Are we solving the wrong problem in child welfare?  When you think of federal child welfare policy, maybe you expect a discussion of foster care and other post-abuse interventions. If so, this conversation with Jerry Milner, former head of the Children’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is going to blow your mind. Because after more than 40 years in child welfare, Milner’s leadership of the Children’s Bureau turned a very, very different direction. He explored questions like: What would happen if we turned over our investment and focused on primary prevention instead? Are too many children separated from their parents unnecessarily through foster care? And, more importantly, what role do our own values of equity and belief in family support play not only in the lives of kids but in the life of our public policy? Milner is reimagining the child welfare system of the future. Take a listen.

Topics in this episode:

  • Origin story (1:20)
  • Why primary prevention? (4:04)
  • Why it’s hard to change (10:38)
  • Systemic inequities (16:44)
  • Different forms of neglect (21:50)
  • The consumer voice (31:54)
  • Our new podcast website (39:28)


Jerry Milner, DSW, is director of the Family Integrity and Justice Works at Public Knowledge, and former head of the U.S. Children’s Bureau

Children’s Advocacy Centers

“$20M diverted from police training facility to mental health facility in Prince George’s,” by Brad Bell, April 19, 2021, ABC7 News

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)

Family First Prevention Services Act

Season 3, Episode 11

“Are We Solving the Wrong Problem in Child Welfare?,” with Jerry Milner

This transcript is from the rebroadcast of this interview on September 22, 2022. There may be minor differences in the text and timestamps.

[intro music]

Teresa Huizar:
Hi, I’m Teresa Huizar, your host of One in Ten. In today’s episode, “Are We Solving the Wrong Problem in Child Welfare?,” I speak with Jerry Milner, former head of the Children’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Now, when you think of federal child welfare policy, maybe you would expect a discussion of foster care and other post-abuse interventions. If so, this conversation is going to blow your mind. Because after more than 40 years in child welfare, Jerry’s leadership of the Children’s Bureau turned a very, very different direction. He explored questions like: What would happen if we turned over our investment and focused on primary prevention instead? And are too many children separated from their parents unnecessarily through foster care? And, more importantly, what role do our own values of equity and belief in family support play not only in the lives of kids but in the life of our public policy? Jerry is reimagining the child welfare system of the future. And I know you’ll be as fascinated as I was in the conversation. Take a listen.

[intro music fades as the interview starts]

[1:21] Teresa Huizar:
Well, Jerry, welcome to One in Ten.

Jerry Milner:
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Teresa Huizar:
I’m going to start this interview where I start every single one of them, and that is by asking you how you really came to this work. I mean, kids growing up don’t say to themselves, “One day, I want to head the Children’s Bureau.” So, you know, they talk about being astronauts or something else. So how did you come into this work?

Jerry Milner:
I originally came into it quite by accident. I did not go to school to become a social worker but landed, frankly about 47 years ago, a summer job in a child welfare agency. And it took. Instead of going back to law school as I had planned, I ended up about three years later going back to get a degree in social work.

And I never had a single goal in mind as I went through the process, but ultimately ended up being the state child welfare director in my home state of Alabama. And moving then to Washington to work with the Children’s Bureau. And most recently, going back to the Children’s Bureau to lead that agency.

So it’s been a process of one step building upon the other. And I hope one step preparing me a little bit better for what’s to come now.

[2:26] Teresa Huizar:
So somewhere along the way, in that summer job, something about child welfare grabbed you. What was it?

Jerry Milner:
You know, Teresa, I think it really was the vulnerability of the children that I came into contact with and their families, their parents.

I had very little background or preparation for the kinds of circumstances that so many of our families in child welfare experience every day of their lives. So I was getting an education while that was happening.

It was at the same time I would say overwhelming for me at my young age to have the level of responsibility that was put upon me for helping them, for working with them, for decision making. But also an excitement that I had the opportunity to do something that I instinctively knew would have lifelong effects for those people that I came into contact with. I’d say in particular, I was struck by so many of the teenagers right in foster care. I was barely a little more than a teenager myself, but I had an opportunity to begin to work with older youth in our foster care system who had experienced some of the worst that our systems can hand out to them.

And it made a lifelong impression on me to this day. I am very, very committed to the needs of older youth in foster care. And those who have left the foster care system.

[4:04] Teresa Huizar:
So someplace along the way, you—or maybe even from the beginning—you developed a real bedrock belief in the value of primary prevention, which honestly, at least at the time, was probably a little bit unusual where there’s a lot of attention as you know, in the child welfare system to intervention and maybe even tertiary prevention, but not necessarily primary prevention.

Can you talk a little bit, both about how that deep commitment to primary prevention developed in you? What made you so committed to it? And secondly, sort of what that’s meant for you and what you want to see for the child welfare system in regard to that?

Jerry Milner:
Sure I could talk for days about that. And I appreciate you asking me because it is so, so near and dear to me.

I think my response to that is both a very personal response and a very logical and more reasoned response. I never as a child myself had an interaction with the child welfare system, but I grew up under circumstances where parents died early in my life and I had to be independent from a very, very young age. And I came to realize that basically one call to a child welfare system might have had a very different kind of impact on my life, than the life that I lived otherwise. And I’ve thought a lot of times about why somebody didn’t call in: Here’s this young kid whose essentially making his own way.

And I know that it was the power of the community that I lived in. It was the support that I felt from extended family, from neighbors, from church members, friends who were always there at every step of the way to offer encouragement, hands-on support, and a broad, extended family of connections and relationships to me. And that—I didn’t know to call it primary prevention. I just knew to call it people caring about me.

And as I got deeper into the field of child welfare, one of the things that struck me, quite honestly, was the isolation that so many of our families experience.

They don’t have a lot of those close connections—many do, but many, if not most, do not. And don’t know the power of a real caring, supportive community there. I also noticed that at the same time, how we were turning away families who needed help and waiting until they’d actually done harm to their children—and not just done harm but done enough harm that it would trigger our ability to offer some kind of support and some kind of service. That’s never made a bit of sense to me in the world to this day. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s a philosophical view of how we reach families through their communities, through networks of support long before children are at such imminent risk of harm and in many cases have already experienced harm.

As for how I view that in the child welfare system, I’ve made no secret about the fact that I’d like to see our child welfare system become one that is focused on strengthening families. So that is proactive as opposed to entirely reactive as it is right now. That helps families get what they need before calling a child abuse and neglect hotline is really the only option that’s there for them. We don’t invest in that. I advocated for four years for more flexibility in our funding programs. So that in addition to foster care and adoption, when it’s absolutely essential that we can fund primary prevention, secondary prevention, because we want to lessen and, as much as we can, prevent the trauma that comes up from the experiences that so many of our families and kids have.

[8:12] Teresa Huizar:
Well, and on that note, you know, when you reflect back, not just about your own personal activity or the last four years but kind of where we are in this moment, I think some strides have been made in terms of looking at primary prevention and making investment there.

Do you think it’s yet at the scale that you’d like to see? In other words, how much progress do you feel like we’ve made and where do we need to make additional progress in that way?

Jerry Milner:
Yeah. Yeah, no. The short answer is we are nowhere near where we need to be. At the Administration for Children, Youth, and Families, when I was acting as commissioner for that part of the federal government, we had roughly a $10 billion budget. Probably eight and a half billion of that money went for foster care and adoption and a very, very small percentage went for what I would call primary prevention of child abuse and neglect.

Even with that small amount of money, it’s very fair to say that there are groups out there that have made in fact tremendous progress in their communities. When we look at what children’s trust funds have done to strengthen the protective capacities of parents in their communities. When we look at what family resource centers have offered, the resources of Child Advocacy Centers, even though it’s not a primary prevention, it is still a way of supporting a family in those points in their lives.

That progress is remarkable. And certainly we have learned so much about the power of being able to support families upfront and in a very proactive, caring, and compassionate way and in doing so to head off the ravages that come when families don’t have the resources that they need and are allowed to become much more entrenched into the difficulties that that brings their way.

But I want to see a system that truly turned upside down. Where foster care and adoption is on the narrow end of the spectrum of services that we provide, and where primary prevention and family support and family preservation are primary interventions with families.

[10:37] Teresa Huizar:
Let me ask you why you think it’s so difficult to make that transformation.

I mean, big change is always difficult, but one of my own aggravations with the federal system overall is that there’ll be something that’s working very well, but to get it to scale is so challenging. And instead it’s like 10 pilot projects here, another five, they—you know, it’s just like, the scale never seems to match the scope of the problem.

And so is it an intractability of Congress? Is it inertia in the system? Is it the fact that the American public doesn’t really believe that families change? I mean, what is it that is contributing to?

Jerry Milner:
I’m going to say, not necessarily equal parts, but like mixing a cocktail it involves parts of probably all of those things, Teresa.

I have long said, I think our own values are our biggest barrier. Through the years, and I have to be careful in saying this, to try to explain myself. But child welfare came into being on a child rescue philosophy: Let’s get those poor little children—and mostly just because they were poor—out of the hands of those bad parents.

There’s countless examples in the history of how child welfare developed. And that rescue mentality has maintained itself over the course of the years. I’ll be among the first to say, when a child needs protection, we have to rise to that occasion. We have to protect children. We have to be there for them. And sometimes we’re not able to do that until after the fact.

But it’s a much more difficult leap, I think, for policy makers, for program administrators, for voters, [for] people in general to think in terms of the value of investing in families. Particularly families who have not always made the best decisions. Families who may not have all the same curb appeal that we in middle-class America would like to see, who may raise their children in different cultural patterns than we deemed to be accepted out there.

And so if we have that view, a negative view of families, I think we’re much less likely, much less willing, to create and fund programs that will support those families. It’s much easier to garner support for children who we see have been harmed, for children who we view as being vulnerable. That’s where we can get our support for funding around there. When I was in Washington, D.C., I will say that the whole value premise was probably the biggest barrier out there.

The other thing is that of course, as you know quite well, our federal programs for child welfare are among the most complex programs out there in terms of requirements. And that’s just a result of piling on and adding on over the course of years. Even being the director of the Children’s Bureau, I found it difficult at times to understand all the ins and outs of some of the programs. And so when we start talking about major revamps of those programs it becomes such a complex and difficult issue. Oftentimes we resort just to adding on something else there, which makes it even more complex. But the difficulty of change, it’s not to be underestimated, as you say.

[14:17] Teresa Huizar:
So in thinking about this issue around the values around this, do you believe that the child welfare system itself “others” parents? Respondent parents?

Jerry Milner:
Do I think that the child welfare system responds to parents?

Teresa Huizar:
No I’m asking, do you think that they sort of treat them as others? Not like us, that these parents are somehow not inherently in any way like caseworkers for example, or like the families of child welfare administrators, or like those of us working in Children’s Advocacy Centers.

Jerry Milner:
Yeah. One of the absolute joys of the last four years for me and for other work prior to that—but particularly during the last four years—was going from state to state in our country and sitting down, in 40-something states at least, with groups of parents who had experienced the child welfare system. With groups of young people who had been a part—in some situations were still a part—of our foster care system and trying to understand what their experiences had been.

There’s not a single group of parents that I met with that did not express feelings of shame, of embarrassment, of judgment, of unworthiness coming from their experience with our child welfare system, writ large.

Granted many individual caseworkers were compassionate to so many of the parents and have done well by them. But I think that the system in fact does treat our parents as if they are “less than” what we would have in place for children. And parents know that. Parents feel that.

One of the reasons that parents tell me that they are so reluctant to go in and ask for help before things become so critical is because of the fear of judgment. And frankly, the realistic fear that their children will be removed from them. So I have no doubt in my mind that values, even if they are implicitly unstated, that reflect negatively on parents who have not always made the right decisions or who grew up in poverty and don’t know how to do a lot of the things that we who didn’t grow up under those circumstances are able to do.

I have no doubt that they feel that unworthiness, that we somehow transmit it to them.

[16:45] Teresa Huizar:
So there’s a thread of social justice in what I hear you talking about, and I’m wondering how equity fits into this equation in your mind, as you look across the child welfare system and issues of disproportionality and, you know, kids being removed from their homes at a greater rate when they’re kids of color, those kinds of things.

So, I mean, I know the child welfare system is aware of these issues, but do you feel hopeful about the future in terms of things changing? Do you feel anxious? You know, you’ve had—you’re 47 years in. Where do you find yourself in this moment when you look at issues of equity within the system?

Jerry Milner:
I’m going to say that I feel more hopeful now than I have felt. But I want to explain that answer.

Because the issue that you’re describing, the absolute inequity among people of color and poor people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds in our child welfare system. It isn’t just a matter of opinion; it really is a matter of fact.

I can remember the moment 40-something years ago when I looked at my foster care caseload, and realized that almost without exception, every family, every child in my caseload was a Black family or a Black child.

We know based on the data, that Black children are two times, almost two times, as likely to enter the foster care system as white children. We know that Indigenous children are almost three times as likely. Those are facts that we as a system know. We can document it. It’s out there.

And quite honestly, we have admired that problem for decades without making meaningful efforts to try and rectify the situation. We know 60% of the children, over 60% of the children who come into our foster care system don’t come into the system because of abuse of any sort—not sexual, physical, emotional—but because of neglect only. And we know that in probably about two thirds of those cases, there’s some tie to poverty there, and that poverty disproportionately affects our families of color. Yet we—even with that knowledge—allow that situation to continue to perpetuate itself generation after generation.

So I love your question. It is a question of social justice here. There is no justice in the fact that a poor family is subject to being separated in many situations just because of their poverty. And we don’t get up in the morning and say, “We’re going to take a child away from their parents because they’re poor,” but it is the effects of unchecked poverty over time that leads families to those circumstances where we have very few options there.

I think we have to approach true transformation in our child welfare system from a lens of justice. Justice that demands and requires that families have a fair shot to say together regardless of what their racial or ethnic background may be. Regardless of what their economic circumstances may be.

As a child welfare system, even as a mental health system or other allied systems that serve our children and families, we have traditionally been willing to pay millions and billions of dollars routinely to provide services and remedies to try and treat or fix the trauma that so many of our families, our children, and our young people experience in their lives—and then sometimes as a result of being in the child welfare system. When for a fraction of that cost, we could invest in family preservation, family support services, community-based and community-run services that could prevent that trauma from occurring in so many circumstances out there.

Even today, we are on a quest for evidence-based services, which I’m supportive of. We want to know that if we’re going to pay for things that there’s some record that they’re actually gonna work. But most of the evidence-based programs that we are researching and putting out there for federal reimbursement are also remedial services. They’re services designed to fix the harm that has occurred.

And comparatively, we have very little evidence about the efficacy, the efficiency of programs out there designed to keep families safely together. And that’s another area where I think we need to turn the tables and at least strive for balance in our quest for evidence around primary prevention, secondary prevention, and after-the-fact treatment of trauma.

[21:49] Teresa Huizar:
I agree with that. I mean, I think there are many cases that in child sexual abuse prevention, for example, we know a lot about what doesn’t work in that space because of the last 30 years of research, but we don’t know a lot about what does work. And I feel like I’d like to see more information and more research into primary prevention generally. But I think also in different forms of abuse, as well as neglect, it would be interesting to know as well.

I kind of want to turn our attention to neglect, and I’m glad you brought it up, because it’s the juggernaut really of what drives the child welfare system. It’s the vast majority of cases. It’s the vast majority of cases of intergenerational abuse. And it really drives the system as a whole. And yet, while some progress has been made on responding to neglect and seeing rates of neglect go down, not to the degree that we see with physical abuse or sexual abuse. I’m curious about first of all, why you think that is? And secondly, what it would take to turn that around? Because until we figure out how to fix neglect, we’re not going to make any meaningful impact on child welfare, I don’t think.

Jerry Milner:
Yeah. I think, Teresa, there’s tremendous variability in state statutes defining neglect. You know, at the federal level, we don’t really define what neglect is. But it’s, it’s a little bit all over the place when we get down to where families actually encounter our child welfare system.

I believe that one of the serious problems is in what we define as neglect. We have an overwhelming number of reports out there that we investigate as educational neglect, just for an example, and certainly not to minimize the importance of education in getting attention where that exists.

I’m not sure that we ought to be treating those kinds of reports in quite the same way that we treat a report of suspected sexual abuse or physical abuse of a child. In many places around our country—probably most places around the country—the option that people have for trying to get help to a family for situations, you know, broadly defined as neglect is to call the child abuse and neglect hotline, which is going to trigger in many cases an investigation.

There are some states out there that have other means of responding—a more social service kind of response. But when reported neglect leads to a child abuse and neglect investigation, I think it sets into motion an awful lot of factors that are not necessarily all designed or set up to support families through that.

[24:32] Teresa Huizar:
I think you bring up a really interesting point about the fact that there are different forms of neglect that may need different attention.

And I wonder to what degree, what we call neglect in many cases is really a constellation of untreated mental health care issues, untreated substance abuse issues, untreated domestic violence, which certainly has made a situation untenable in some cases for kids to be there, but the root cause isn’t a parent doesn’t care about their kids or doesn’t want to provide help to them, but their other issues are so overwhelming.

And I’m wondering what you think, you know, coming from your background in the Children’s Bureau, you know, we’ve been talking about the investment within child welfare. How does investment in other areas like substance abuse treatment or other types of things either serve to support the work that you’re trying to do with primary prevention or undermine it?

Jerry Milner:
I think it can only be supportive because all of these issues, just as you so eloquently pointed out, are inter-related. I think it’s probably unusual that that our families are just involved in a very narrowly defined child welfare situation. Most often there are other factors in play there.

But when we start to look deep enough, what we find there are sometimes generation cycles of unresolved difficulty that our families experience that are perpetuating themselves and playing out. Now we find perpetual poverty in the families that leads to all kinds of other difficulties for them. And we have a tendency to treat the symptoms rather than to really treat the root causes.

But going back to your question, my hope is that as we look at funding for programs, that we’ll begin to look much more closely at how we fund communities themselves to support families out there in ways where we lessen the stigma of going in and asking for help. Where it becomes a sign of strength if a family is willing to ask for help rather than an admission of weakness and vulnerability and a threat to the family integrity.

I think it will be probably a very long time if ever when our public child welfare system can really be the face of our primary prevention efforts, but we must be partners in that. And the funding, so much of the funding that goes to support family separation I think could, with some flexibility go to communities that are certainly better positioned than a state or federal government to serve their families, to offer them supports in non-stigmatizing ways, in ways that are culturally more relevant for those families and ultimately more effective.

That’s been our advocacy over the last four years, is to get that flexibility and funding so that we can spread that out and it isn’t just a child welfare function. And not just a child welfare agency, because families inherently distrust the child welfare agency.

[27:47] Teresa Huizar:
I think you’re right to say that communities themselves often do very interesting, innovative things. And I can’t remember now if it was Montgomery County or Prince George’s County, but they just recently decided they were going to redirect some dollars from a training center that they were putting together.

And they decided, “You know, what we really need is more mental health beds.” So they’re—you know, isn’t that interesting that they were like, “that’s the thing we need.” So goodbye training center and hello, mental health beds. And it’s already beginning to make a difference. So I think that that kind of innovation in terms of letting a community go, “You know what’s going to make a difference in terms of responding to these kinds of distressing situations. You know, we can redirect some budget to do that.”

And it’s interesting to think about the federal government may be taking an eye to that, you know, in the same way.

One of the things that I’ve heard you talk about before several times, and you were sort of getting at it here a little bit, is about the impact of trauma of family separation, which I think we don’t often think about, or talk about enough. You know, as a person who, you know, I’ve worked with Children’s Advocacy Centers in countries that have no foster care system. And that, you know, as you might imagine is no Shangrila. It is not an improvement, it’s a terrible thing. On the other hand, in a former life I was a CASA director, so I know very well from working in that system, that kids need their families, and they feel drawn to their families. Even when very terrible things have happened to them, they still want the love and support of their family. And they just ache for that.

Why is it, do you think, that we’ve become sort of reflectively over-reliant on foster care, maybe, and discount the value of family if that family is not perfect?

Jerry Milner:
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I do think again, it goes back to inherent values. All of us, it’s in our instincts. We want to protect children who are in danger and who may have already been harmed, and our instincts are to remove children from harmful situations.

I think what we don’t stop—well, let me say this. I think that as social workers, other allied professionals, paraprofessionals, volunteers in the field, we most often encounter those kinds of circumstances at the point at which a child is either really in danger or has already suffered the harm.

And we think if we can just get the child out of that situation, then we’ve done our job. We’ve done what we need to do. We have protected that child from being abused or neglected or whatever.

Further, we don’t always see and understand what happens beyond that. As I mentioned a little bit earlier, in state after state, until this day, even having left the Children’s Bureau, I still talk every week with young people who are alumni—which is a nice word to use—of our foster care system. And I hear their experiences. I hear almost invariably about being in foster care for 17, 18 years and being in 17, 18 different kinds of placements.

I hear from these young adults telling me that when it just got to be too much for them, and the only way they can exert any control is through behaviors, that the intensity of those placements then begins to increase, and they become congregate and therapeutic and far more restrictive. So I hear those stories and I know you’ve heard and understand those stories as well. But at the point when we’re making those decisions, we don’t always understand exactly what we are protecting children from.

We may protect them from physical danger. But we do a far less good job of protecting their emotional and psychological well-being over time.

[31:52] Teresa Huizar:
I think that’s so true. I mean, I’ve always thought about, you know, you have to think ahead to where these kids—who’s going to be standing beside them at graduation? Who’s going to be walking down them down the aisle when they get married, what family reunion are they going to get to go to? And when you sever somebody from that permanently, that’s a very serious decision to make. And it has to be, I think, one that is a last resort and not really, you know, a first resort in so many of these cases that, as you say, may start in neglect and not necessarily start at the end of things that we in Children’s Advocacy Centers are working on.

We are far down the road from that.

You know, you’ve been talking also about the importance of consumer voice. Talking to parents, talking to kids, talking to youth about their experiences within the system and in the system. Is this something that you’re seeing that there’s been a greater uptake of, not just at the federal level, but at the state, and those systems that are county-based, levels where there’s more opportunity for consumer voice or more listening to that.

Jerry Milner:
Now that that’s something I can say absolutely yes. I think it’s one of the more encouraging trends that we’re seeing in our child welfare system now. We’re seeing more development of parent to parent, peer to peer kinds of support programs that are out there. We’re seeing much greater involvement of youth engagement teams in an active way.

When I was coming up through the ranks, if we ever sat down with a parent or a young person in foster care just to help develop their own case plan, that was a little bit edgy as far as engagement. So we’re at a point now where we can not only look to parental engagement, parental voice, in terms of their own circumstances and their own decision making, but at the broader systemic level.

We’re not where we need to be. And I think it is still a very delicate situation. It’s got to be integrated into the very way that we do our business. And I believe that once we start listening to parents and young people and taking to heart what it is they tell us, it becomes so valuable to us. At least for me, it has become so valuable that I can’t imagine doing my job without benefit of that voice.

Yet there still are places out there where it really is not that thoroughly integrated. But we are making progress there. Another related aspect to that is the whole area of ensuring that parents and children have adequate legal representation so that their voices can actually be heard.

One of the things that we did a couple of years ago was to open up a Title IV-E foster care funding to allow for the payment of, in part of legal representation for parents in the foster care system, for all children in the foster care system. It’s still up to the states to take advantage of that funding, but we know that a number of them are. And a number of states already routinely are providing lawyers for the child and parents. But that’s an important ingredient in making sure that their voices, their expressed wishes are heard before the court and in their interactions with the agencies.

[35:19] Teresa Huizar:
When you think about what’s next and what policy opportunities still exist—and, you know, I know you’re still working, you mentioned your 47 years, but they’re not over—what is next? What would you like to see the federal government either continue to focus on or take steps toward that there may have been no steps at all to date, despite all the great work that’s gone on?

Jerry Milner:
Yeah. Yeah. I think there are two or three areas there that I’d really like to see. Having just mentioned legal representation, I think that we need to take that a step further. Right now, we can contribute to the possibility of representation for parents once foster care proceedings are in the works.

But in a primary prevention way of thinking, we need to make sure that parents have that kind of representation for the issues that put them and their children at risk of becoming separated. Things like eviction, loss of utilities, lack of access to services, immigration issues, a wealth of issues that without adequate representation, help, and assistance, then families often find themselves on the door of the child welfare agency. So that is one area where I hope we will continue to give attention.

I’m a strong advocate for flexibility in our federal funding. Again, as I mentioned, most of our funding is categorical funding. It’s funding that is directed toward the payment of foster care and associated expenses, the payment of adoption and associated expenses. We tell communities, counties, states, “This is how you have to spend your money.” And I believe that communities know their families better than I know them, and that they ought to have some say in how our federal taxpayer dollars are spent to support the families that live within their community. So more flexibility to serve families in more proactive ways in our funding, I would say is a critical part of that process.

I would certainly like to see the Family First Prevention Services Act that was passed back in 2018 cover a broader base of prevention services other than what I would call secondary or tertiary prevention services.

It’s important to cover those services. But the closer we can get to primary prevention and serving families in an upstream way, I think the closer we get to resolving some of the recurring issues that we spend our time and our money dealing with.

[37:54] Teresa Huizar:
Thank you. All right. Well, as we wrap this up, is there any question that you had wished I’d asked you and I didn’t? Anything else that you want to talk about before we close this interview?

Jerry Milner:
I just appreciate your interest in this. Teresa, I am quite well aware that by the time a family or child or young person reaches a Child Advocacy Center, things have gone terribly wrong in those families. And I hope that we all will use that as a springboard into figuring out ways that we can try to curb some of those circumstances and support families before we ever get there.

I’m also quite well aware that there are no quick fixes here. We have strong ideas and thoughts and in some situations evidence to tell us that there is a better way of doing it. Right-sizing a system that has been so long in the making in one direction is a very difficult challenge. And the partnerships that are needed, with families, with communities, with allied agencies, with public and private, you know, faith-based and secular, all of those are absolutely essential in order to create the kind of system where families get what they need to thrive.

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[00:44:42] Teresa Huizar:
Well, thank you for all your public service and for being on One in Ten. We so appreciate you, Jerry.

Jerry Milner:
Thanks for letting me be here. Thank you.


[39:24] Teresa Huizar:
Thanks for listening to One in Ten. If you liked this episode, please share it with a friend. And for more information about the podcast, visit our new podcast website at

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