Greenlight Honors Black History Month

February is Black History Month. Greenlight Family Services recognizes that black youth and families too often face greater challenges within the child welfare system. We are here to help. Love is the foundation of every happy, healthy family, and every loving caregiver should have the support they need to help their child thrive. 

Honoring Black Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

This February, Greenlight Family Services honors the many black families and youth served. We are proud that this community represents a third of our staff, matching the third of Cook County Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG) who are black. GRGs have taken on the role of caregiver to their grandchildren, forming ‘grandfamilies’ as sources of familial support and stability. Read more about the incredible resiliency of GRGs here

Since 2003, Greenlight has assisted GRGs through legal aid and counseling services. Whether through adoption or guardianship, Greenlight ensures that grandparent caregivers are legally empowered to care for their grandchildren. This ensures that GRGs can enroll their child in school and advocate for their healthcare, education, and public benefits. 

In our very own Chicago community, we are proud to serve as a referral agency for what many local black GRGs have called the “Miracle on 12th Street”, the Sankofa House of the Sankofa Safe Child Initiative. The Sankofa House is a 58-unit housing facility built for GRGs and youth who have aged out of foster care. It is located in North Lawndale, a neighborhood with a more than 80% black population. 

Sankofa Founder and Executive Director, Annetta Wilson, shares that upon the opening of the House, resident grandparents “stood up for [their grandchildren], fought for them, when nobody else would look at them in a positive way.” The Sankofa House is a community, a family, and a beacon of hope, coordinating supportive services and intergenerational activities that help residents thrive whether young or old. Because of Greenlight’s strong partnership with Sankofa, every grandparent has access to quality legal aid and counseling services to achieve the best outcome for their family. 

Access to Permanency in the Child Welfare System

This Black History Month, we look not only to the past but to how we can address the current reality faced by black communities across the state of Illinois. Black youth face a reality of disparity in the child welfare system. Greenlight Family Services is committed to addressing these disparities by providing care and support through our many adoption and guardianship services

The American Bar Association writes that both race and socioeconomic status affect decision-making within the child welfare system “from reporting, to foster care placements, to termination of parental rights decisions.” Until these biases are tackled, this will continue to contribute to more black youth placed in foster care when at-home care might have been an appropriate alternative. Oftentimes, kinship care, in which a child is placed with a relative or close family friend, is an appropriate and more stabilizing option for youth. Greenlight specializes in support for kin caregivers like grandparents, aunts and uncles, and older siblings who are caring for their younger relative/s. 

“Greenlight works every day to establish and grow relationships with Illinois communities,” says Dr. Maria Nanos, CEO of Greenlight Family Services. “There are intentional outreach efforts, particularly in Chicago’s south and west side communities, where there is an abundance of underserved black youth and families.”

Greenlight is dedicated to spreading awareness about our available services and the importance of adoption and guardianship. These efforts ensure that the thousands of kin caregivers, adoptive parents, guardians, and youth across Illinois have access to the highest quality services and that all youth have a chance at permanency. Greenlight is committed to finding a loving home for every child and legally empowering every caregiver so that all Illinois families have the support they need to thrive.