Seen and Heard is a show about disrupting the child welfare system by the simple act of seeing families in their full humanity. I’m your host Matt Anderson. I am incredibly curious about people’s stories and endlessly impatient with the status quo. I’ve witnessed how seeing people for who they truly are, and learning from their stories, offers new perspectives and compelling insights that can lead to radical transformation of America’s foster care system.Join me in listening to families share deeply personal stories about their experiences with the child welfare system. Hear them express how the moments they were finally seen and valued shaped the trajectories of their lives. In this podcast, I accompany these stories with conversations about the work happening on the front lines of the family well-being movement—a collective effort aimed at meeting the needs of families to prevent systems intervention and the removal of children from parents. Hear leaders of the movement describe how they are actively building a future where families are engaged in systems work and have what they need to stay together and thrive.My life’s work has been dedicated to listening to and serving families. I have a master’s degree in social work and nearly 20 years of collective experience in youth engagement, child welfare practice, public policy, organizational leadership, and documentary film production. I am the director of Institute for Family, a division of Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, which uses the power of storytelling and collective thinking to elevate and prioritize family well-being.
WHAT IF WE DIDN’T HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL BAD ENOUGH
Spoken word poet, Slam Anderson, and her mom, Lillie Lee-Williams, engage in an emotional conversation with host Matt Anderson that demonstrates the strength of family bonds despite a 14-year child welfare-initiated separation. This episode questions what would happen if the child welfare system was designed to support root causes of family stress instead of waiting for late-stage intervention. Plus, Slam recites her spoken word poem “My Need for Change,” detailing her experiences with the system, which Matt Anderson refers to as the “anthem” of the family well-being movement.
0:56 | Meet Slam Anderson, spoken word poet
1:08 | Slam recites the first segment of her original poem “My Need for Change.”
2:50 | Slam shares insight on life growing up and how her mom poured into Slam and her siblings' lives while struggling to make ends meet.
5:00 | Meet Lillie Lee-Williams, Slam’s mom.
6:55 | What would’ve helped Lillie’s family?
8:26 | What does it feel like to go through a system that isn’t designed to truly listen to what families need? Listen to Lillie’s experience when she asked for help.
9:40 | What happened to Slam when she and her siblings were separated from their mother, Lillie? Slam reveals her story and shares the second segment of her poem “My Need for Change.”
16:00 | How does Slam find her love for poetry?
17:54 | After 14 years, Slam and Lillie share how reconnecting was emotional and exhilarating.
20:05 | The third and final segment of Slam’s spoken word poem “My Need for Change.”
21:20 | Matt asks Lillie, “What do you want us to know? What do you want us to do?”
23:00 | Matt shares final thoughts.
View transcript here
Slam works with these organizations to promote self-empowerment and love: Kitchen Table and FosterStrong
Introduction to Family Well-being: Promoting Child & Family Well-Being | Child Welfare Information Gateway
Program example of in-home services that build supports for families: CHSNC | Family Preservation Program
Kinship Care Resources | Child Information Gateway
Housing Services | Child Welfare Information Gateway
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Seen and Heard Podcast Trailer
Seen and Heard is a show about disrupting the child welfare system by the simple act of seeing families in their full humanity. Listen to their stories with your host Matt Anderson. Tune in weekly to hear new perspectives and compelling insights that can lead to the radical transformation of America’s foster care system.
Wow...a must listen
I found myself several times wanting to know more details about Slam’s and Lillie’s experiences. How often did they get to see each other? Why weren’t there early interventions, or why didn’t the system take the time to get to know them as a family before tearing them apart? But then I realized those details simply aren’t relevant. As the title of this podcast states, it was meant to serve as an experience for the listener to both see and hear their family’s experience. The love from Lillie for her children was palpable, and the courage Slam has to call out and question the system that failed their family is inspiring. What Lillie said about the system not jumping to conclusions about parents struck me. Parents are doing the best they can with what they have. Why didn’t anyone ever ask her what she needed? Thank you to both of you for sharing part of your story.
Powerful work through storytelling
I am a big fan of the work that the Institute for Family is doing. They are centering the narrative of child welfare around the family and family well being, which is a needed perspective shift. This podcast is well-produced, enjoyable to listen to and inspiring. Hearing directly from those impacted by the “system” and those working on the front lines to bring transformation is exactly what is needed right now. Good stuff!