California Social Welfare Archives Honors Champion for Native Americans

(From L to R) Yolie Flores, Bruce Jansson, Rose-Margaret Orrantia and CSWA President Esther Gillies

The California Social Welfare Archives hosted its annual awards luncheon on April 4 at the Galen Center to honor Native American children’s advocate Rose-Margaret Orrantia, families and children proponent Yolie Flores, and policy expert and USC School of Social Work professor Bruce Jansson for their commitment to the advancement of social welfare.

Orrantia, former executive director of Indian Child and Family Services, was presented the George D. Nickel Award for Outstanding Contributions to Social Welfare by Anita Harbert, professor emeritus and former director of the San Diego State University School of Social Work. Harbert and Orranita currently work together at the Academy for Professional Excellence’s Tribal STAR (Successful Transitions to Adult Readiness) program at San Diego State University to aid Native American foster youth in their transitions to adulthood.

Orrantia, a tribal elder, has spent her career improving the lives of Native American children in the child welfare system and credits the work of her tribal colleagues in helping her advance these children’s status in the system.

“Although I was selected to receive this award, it isn’t for or about me. I accept this award for the social work many tribal people have contributed to,” said Orrantia, who was later wrapped in a blanket by her colleagues, a Native American tradition that symbolizes how loved ones are always surrounded by the thoughts and prayers of their tribes.

Nationally known and respected, Orrantia has spent her career advocating for better outcomes and erasing disparity for Native American children in the foster care system. As executive director of Indian Child and Family Services, a foster family and adoption agency serving the American Indian population in San Diego and Riverside counties, she fought for state funding and the agency’s licensure. She raised the state’s awareness of the importance of Native Americans facilitating adoptions of their own children and encouraged young tribal people to go into social work.

“I wasn’t ever going to just roll over,” Orrantia said. “I really informed myself so when people said, ‘you can’t do that,’ I could say, ‘yes, you can, and this is how.’”

Orrantia authored The Indian Child Welfare Act: A Handbook and has presented to a range of government and social service organizations, including U.S. Senate Select committees and the County Welfare Director’s Association of California. She is also a member of the advisory board for the newly formed National Resource Center for Tribes, which is housed under the Children’s Bureau Training and Technical Assistance National Network and designed to support states and tribes in achieving sustainable, systemic change in child welfare systems that results in greater well-being for children and families.

Jacquelyn McCroskey, the John Milner Professor of Child Welfare at the USC School of Social Work, presented the George D. Nickel Award for Outstanding Professional Services by a Social Worker to Yolie Flores, chief executive of Communities for Teaching Excellence, which works to improve academic achievement by empowering communities to advocate for effective teaching. Flores began her career as a social worker at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, where she created and led DWP Family Care, a nationally recognized employer-supported child care and family support program. She has also served as director of child care planning and policy for the City of Los Angeles and chief executive of the Los Angeles County Children’s Planning Council, the largest children’s partnership network in the United States. As a board member of the Los Angeles Unified School District, she championed some of its most significant educational reforms, including public school choice, teacher effectiveness and parent engagement.

The Frances Lomas Feldman Excellence in Education Award, named after the Archives' late founder who taught social welfare history, policy and administration at the School of Social Work for 36 years, was presented by Vice Dean R. Paul Maiden to Bruce Jansson, the school’s Margaret W. Driscoll/Louise M. Clevenger Professor of Social Policy and Administration.

Jansson joined the USC faculty in 1973. His scholarly interests focus on advancing case advocacy and policy advocacy in social work, as well as examining the history and practice of social welfare policy. He invented the term "policy practice" in the 1984 release of The Theory and Practice of Social Policy, which was succeeded by numerous books and editions on the topic, including last year’s publication of Improving Healthcare Through Advocacy: A Guide for the Health and Helping Professions. Policy practice has since emerged as a recognized intervention, with the Council on Social Work Education now requiring social work schools to teach policy practice.

“I’ve spent my career giving social workers practical tools to reform social policies and be creative agents for change,” Jansson said. “You have to get social work practice students into policy because you have to ‘do’ things to change policy.”

Established in 1979, the California Social Welfare Archives maintains one of the most extensive and complete collections of California social welfare history. The volunteer-based group of social workers, librarians, archivists and other community leaders collects, preserves and makes available historically significant information that documents the emergence of social problems and the development of social welfare answers in California. The organization conducts its activities under the auspices of the USC School of Social Work, with its collections housed in the university library's Department of Special Collections located in Doheny Memorial Library.

Orrantia being wrapped in a blanket, a Native American tradition.