Let It Be Us Speaks: Interview with Illinois State Representative Lakesia Collins
- Foster Care , Latest News
- February 21, 2022
An interview with Illinois State Representative Lakesia Collins by Let It Be Us Director of Placement Support & Licensing Coaching Vanessa Baie
I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Rep. Lakesia Collins, Illinois House Representative for the 9th District. Rep. Collins has a personal history with the foster care system in Illinois and is passionate about improving the system so that it better serves the children of Illinois.
Rep. Collins believes strongly that poverty, social problems, and systemic challenges often lead families to be involved in the child welfare system and her goal is to improve these factors and end generational patterns of abuse and neglect through the support of these chronically underserved families.
In order to ensure safe, stable, long-term placement options for children who must be placed outside their families requires foster parents to have the appropriate support in place to provide care for the children in their homes. For this support and care to be meaningful, the services must be available to them right away to avoid placement disruptions. To ensure foster parents can speak to the support they are getting – or not getting – to care for children, Rep. Collins sponsored a bill supporting “exit” interviews for foster parents after they have a child removed with the use of a 14-day notice in order to flag issues surrounding removals of children from homes and begin to provide more immediate and better support for foster parents.
“Some of them only know chaos.”
Rep. Lakesia Collins’ personal history with foster care reflects her deep understanding of the issues children in care face. “Some of them only know chaos,” Rep. Collins commented. These traumatic experiences mean that children in care need special support and appropriate care in order to thrive. Rep. Collins points out that this is not a new problem but in fact something she has seen for the last 20 years working to help children in care.
Rep. Collins expressed concern about Black and Brown children in care, and how they more often face further traumatization or re-traumatization once they’re placed in care. This trauma can often result in attachment disorders which, when diagnosed incorrectly, are treated with medications rather than appropriate support that helps them manage their trauma.
Rep. Collins believes that youth have a right to speak up and advocate for themselves and their needs. She believes strongly in the importance of children in care telling their stories and that their lived experiences be taken seriously. To that end, she sponsored a bill to gave children in care freedom of speech so they can tell their own stories and share their experiences.
As a member of the Human Services Committee, Collins describes the committee as a group that “supports the well-being of all children” in Illinois. Rep. Collins works hard to highlight programs and services that provide support for youth in care and hold them accountable to their mission. She advocates for passing meaningful legislation that will ensure all feel welcome, allowing foster youth to be themselves. She sponsored another bill that focused on the importance of respecting correct pronouns for LGBTQIA+ youth-in-care.
Currently in Illinois, children in care ‘age out’ at 21 years old, meaning those who do not have a permanent family, whether through adoption or guardianship, leave DCFS without meaningful support or care. Rep. Collins hopes to increase the age of youth-in-care from 21-years-old to 23, so they have more time to receive support. Increasing the age of when young people age out of care, Collins believes, will help them work toward becoming stable young adults.
Also critical to preventing more children from entering the child welfare system, Rep. Collins advocates for better child care, particularly for youth who have their own young children. She supports easier access to child care for young parents, while also providing them additional support once they leave the system themselves.
“This is a great time to hear from the community.”
We ended our interview by talking about the COVID-19 pandemic, which Rep. Collins said has exposed a lot more about the child welfare system and the need to focus on children in care and reform the systems to better support them. She encourages anyone that wants to get involved to do so in their own communities. “This is a great time to hear from the community.”
Rep. Collins said she is so grateful to the foster parents throughout the State of Illinois. “Thank you for taking our children in and showing them love. We ask you to be patient as you provide them another chance and renewed opportunity at a stable life.”
It is clear Representative Lakesia Collins will never stop fighting for the children in foster care, and the homes that care for them. “We are here for you, we are fighting, and I’m listening.”
To learn more about Representative Collins you can visit her website at LakesiaCollins.com
About Let It Be Us
Let It Be Us is a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the landscape of foster care and adoption in Illinois. Our mission is to inspire foster care and adoption so more children in care grow up in stable, healthy homes. Funds raised will go to programs that build the strong and innovative bridge between our waiting children and foster and adoptive parents. Learn more at letitbeus.org
Vanessa comes with eight years of child welfare experience. She began working initially in foster care as a Permanency Case Worker and then moved into other positions in the field including; foster parent licensing, administration, quality assurance and risk management, and most recently in clinical social work as a Therapist and Parenting Educator for birth parents and children involved with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She has also been a CASA advocate since May 2021. Vanessa earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Jane Addams College of Social Work at UIC and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with the state of Illinois. She is also a Licensed Direct Service Child Welfare Employee and is Rule 402 and Child Care Act certified. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Clinical Social Work with the Institute of Clinical Social Work in Chicago. Vanessa is deeply passionate about child welfare and committed to improving outcomes for the safety and well-being of all children in Illinois. You can reach Vanessa here.