meet Anneka Lewis
We featured Anneka Lewis in our “Three Questions with the Social Centers” about her experience with the Department of Children and Families and how she is translating that into her work with the Social Centers.
Anneka was born in Georgetown, Guyana and migrated to Brooklyn, New York in 1999. She has been a Massachusetts resident for 7 years now. She is a former Social Worker for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and a City Year Boston alumni. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with a minor in Black Studies at State University of New York at New Paltz and earned a Master’s degree in Social Work from Simmons School of Social Work. She has been employed at East Boston Social Centers since August, 2018. She is dedicated to molding tomorrow’s leaders through the nonprofit spectrum, with a mission to reduce poverty and be involved with creating economic opportunities for the ones that are unaware of them. She’s inspired daily by the families in the community served, who trust in her abilities to advocate and provide support for their children and their families.
As a former DCF worker, please tell us your thoughts about the biggest challenges facing the system and children and families in it.
If I had to list one challenge facing the system, it would be the continuous need for foster homes across the globe. I believe the barrier is the lack of eligible relatives due to specific crimes that are not acceptable and grounds for disqualification. I agree that it is important for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to conduct background checks for prospective Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Caregivers, but it should also utilize the waiver to approve criminal convictions that will accept more relatives as foster parents while decreasing the urgency around the need for foster homes in return. It will also open up a conversation as to why more relatives are being denied for specific crimes.
While I understand the screening process and the importance of criminal background checks, the Department currently uses waivers as an opportunity for those considered unsuitable for approval to become caregivers. The waivers are essential for the advocacy of increasing the number of approval decisions by assessing the circumstance of the incident with efforts to ensure the candidate can care for and provide a safe living environment for the child/children. The goal is to reunite children in the Departments Care with their relatives. Foster care is the last resort but there are not many homes or beds available at any given time. The key to finding a solution to this challenge is to provide more homes that are familiar to children while the families continue to work with the Department of Children and Families. Creating an environment that is familiar, in my opinion, can reduce removal trauma, separation anxiety, and fear while also continuing to create nurturing and loving environments that allow the children to adjust after being separated from their families for a temporary period of time.
What are the special things the East Boston Social Centers- and you- do to support children and families involved with DCF? Tell us about the difference it makes.
East Boston Social Centers are partnered with the Department of Children and Families Harbor office, which allows children on an open caseload to receive a referral for child care services and an opportunity to attend an after school/summer program or child care. I have seen firsthand how parents are able to focus on their everyday routine without the worries of having to fund child care or after school programs. This also provides them with more time to focus on their assessment goals with their social worker and their overall involvement with the Department until the closing of their cases. East Boston Social Centers creates a safe environment that welcomes diversity and celebrates inclusion that are designed to meet people's educational, social, and recreational needs.
What brings you joy?
One of my favorite foreign philosophy concept is Ubuntu, which means “I Am Because You Are” It embraces the idea that humans cannot exist in isolation. We should depend on connection, community, and caring simply, we cannot be without each other. I strive each day to live up to Ubuntu and what brings it all together is having the opportunity to work closely with families involved directly with DCF. I support children and families involved with DCF with resources throughout their community, Mental Health referrals, child-care and after school. But what I love most about my role is advocating for the children involved with DCF, to provide them with a child care resource regardless of our contact amount, as I’m allowed the opportunity to fill additional children into expansion slots and set the tone that there is a need for high quality child care and after school. I know personally what it’s like to be a social worker for the Department, and I know as a family worker that it takes a village to care for a child and I’m gratified with being a part of that village.