DCF Documentary, 'Truth to Transformation,' to Screen at Garden State Film Festival


Documentary Short Follows the Stories of Three People Affected by the Child Welfare System as They Work with the Department to Co-Design the Future of Child Welfare in NJ

ASBURY PARK, N.J. – In a significant stride towards redefining child welfare, the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (NJ DCF) unveils the compelling narrative of its transformative journey through "Truth to Transformation." This documentary short, set to premiere at the 22nd Annual Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park on March 23, follows the poignant stories of three individuals deeply impacted by the child welfare system. Through their collaboration with NJ DCF, they spearhead the co-design of a reimagined future for child welfare in New Jersey, aiming for a system that nurtures family unity and individual well-being.

NJ DCF Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer expressed her gratitude towards the co-designers, Tamia Govan, Dashaan Jennings, and Kayann Foster, for their courage in sharing their experiences. Their stories illuminate the path towards a child welfare system that acknowledges its past shortcomings, including generational trauma and racial inequity, and strides towards a future where family separation is a last resort.

"Truth to Transformation" encapsulates the essence of the Powerful Families, Powerful Communities NJ (PFPC-NJ) initiative, a collaborative effort led by DCF to overhaul the traditional foster care model. Instead, the initiative focuses on strengthening families to prevent the need for child protective services involvement. Through this partnership, lived experience co-designers work alongside state representatives to foster environments where families can flourish independently of systemic intervention.

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Former Executive Director for PFPC-NJ, Benita Miller, highlighted the documentary's reflection of the systemic healing process, emphasizing the importance of rebuilding trust between child welfare services and the communities they serve. This shift towards a more inclusive and empathetic approach marks a critical step in improving outcomes for families involved in the child welfare system.

The film, initially conceived as a training resource for DCF staff, evolved into a comprehensive narrative under the direction of Cheryl Miller Houser. It showcases the moving personal journeys of Govan, Jennings, and Foster, alongside insights from child welfare experts. Their stories, combined with leadership perspectives, underscore the imperative for a child and family well-being system that champions healing, resilience, and positive change.

Commissioner Beyer regards the screening at the Garden State Film Festival as an ideal platform to introduce this vital message to a broader audience. The festival, a testament to New Jersey's rich cinematic heritage, offers a fitting backdrop for the film's message of hope and transformation.

"Truth to Transformation" serves as a beacon for change within New Jersey and offers valuable insights into child welfare systems worldwide. Its premiere on Saturday, March 23, 2024, at the Jersey Shore Arts Center promises to be a pivotal moment, shedding light on the power of collaborative innovation in fostering systemic change and strengthening family bonds.

For further information on the screening and to purchase tickets, visit the official Garden State Film Festival website.

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