This year’s 6th annual Bobby Boyd Leadership Lecture focused on kinship care for youth and the valuable role that subsidized guardianship can play in helping youth maintain family connections. Robert Johnson, one of the first children nationally to qualify for subsidized guardianship, shared his experiences of being raised by his birth mother, while under the care of an aunt. Johnson’s experience helped inform research that led to the 2008 Fostering Connections Act, a federal law creating guardianship assistance and other supports for kinship caregivers.
Johnson’s presentation included a Q&A session with Mark Testa, the Spears-Turner Distingtuished Professor whose groundbreaking research in subsidized guardianship led to a major impact on national child welfare policies and practices. Testa, along with School of Social Work researchers David Ansong, Selena Childs, Kanisha Brevard and Annie Francis continue to work with Johnson to educate state and federal officials about the benefits of kinship guardianship. Johnson is a professional consortium member of the Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Presentation (an initiative of the Children’s Bureau), a co-founder of the B.E.S.T. Man mentorship program for young men and an associate minister at Corinthian Baptist Church in Des Moines, Iowa. Johnson is also a graduate of Drake University, where he studied political science and government.
This year’s lecture also included a lunchtime roundtable discussion on “Parenting Black Boys in America.” Debra Johnson, Robert Johnson’s sister and communications director for the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families, discussed the unique challenges faced by African American parents and why she refuses to teach her son “Black codes,” or the unofficial rules of how Black boys should conduct themselves in public. Johnson gained national attention after her story was featured as part of a New York Times multimedia project called, “Conceptions.” (Read a Daily Tar Heel article about Johnson’s discussion.) The School’s Black Student Caucus co-hosted the roundtable discussion.
The Bobby Boyd Leadership Lecture honors the work of Bobby Boyd, an alumnus of the UNC School of Social Work (Master of Social Work, 1969) who served as director of Catawba County Department of Social Services for 30 years. This program is supported by generous gifts from Catawba County commissioners, DSS staff members and social services board members.