Mosley Hobson had every intention of taking a well-deserved rest and writing a book after retiring from the military.
The book would be about his time in foster care and, he’d hoped, would serve as an encouragement to foster youth to make their lives whatever they could dream of. Mosley came into foster care at birth and emancipated himself at 17-years-old when he enlisted in the military. While writing the book, Mosley hit a “brick wall.” He needed to understand the system inside and out to finish it.
In December of 2018, Mosley took a job as a conservatorship worker in San Antonio and later moved on to be a program specialist for DFPS’s Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) division. He led fatherhood and veterans’ programs. While at PEI, he was a founding member of a committee on disproportionality following the death of George Floyd. The event and its aftermath sparked nationwide conversation about race relations in the US and inspired Mosley to focus on disproportionality.
In 2022, Mosley accepted a call to serve as the disproportionality manager at DFPS, where he and his team work to address disparities in the child welfare system.
We sat down with Mosley to talk about disproportionality and his role at the department.
Q: What is your hope for the future as the disproportionality manager?
A: My hope is to continue the work that others have done and build on the foundations that they’ve already laid.
We want to minimize trauma that happens not just from things in the family structure but even when the system is involved.
To do that, we have to really understand why these families come to the attention of the system. We have to address their needs in a way that supports and strengthens communities, not that tears them apart.
Q: What challenges have you faced in doing this work and what challenges do you anticipate facing?
A: This work is complicated. It’s very complex.
Some of the challenges that we’ve identified are, one, that there are a lot of communities that are hurt. They’re hurt because of our system and what our system has created in their communities. We want to come in and move swiftly to heal and help move forward. But the reality is that for some communities, it’s not easy to trust us.
That becomes a challenge. That becomes a barrier. We have to determine how we can regain the trust of minority communities that may have been hurt by the work that we do.
Another barrier, and solution for building trust, is being able to get the right people to the table to have the right conversations that move the work forward.
It’s not always an easy conversation to have but it’s the right one. It’s difficult, and often uncomfortable, for those who haven’t had the personal experiences of the families we serve.
Q: What encourages you to push beyond the challenges and to keep your vision focused?
A: I have to remember that I, too, was where the families that we serve today are.
When I retired from the military, my intent was to stay retired. I was not looking forward to coming back into the workforce.
I started writing a book to encourage foster kids to take control of their lives despite some of the barriers and obstacles they face while in the system. While I was writing the book, I hit a brick wall almost like writer’s block. I knew what to write but I couldn’t write it holistically because I didn’t have a complete picture of the other side.
That pushed me to come work in child welfare and for DFPS. I wanted to run. I never had a desire to work for the agency. Partly because of personal trauma.
I came to work for the agency at 41 and I was afraid of what it would bring back up in me. Trauma didn’t just come overnight; it was a process that now is embedded in a lot of our families.
If I was 41 and acknowledging that I’m still afraid of what I have to face from my past, in child welfare, imagine what the families we serve are thinking.
I’ve been where some of our children are. I want to do everything in my power to see more kids like me sit in my seat one day all the way to the governor’s seat one day… because they did their best to want to make lemonade with the lemons from their experiences with child welfare.
If I can help change a policy, a procedure, a practice that helps us build strategies that keep families together and lessens the trauma and impact the child welfare system can bring, that’s what helps me keep pushing beyond the barriers that may come in my path.
I’m obligated to that.
Q: Knowing the disproportionality rates for Black children in the State of Texas, what are some of your goals for closing the gap to become a more equitable system and how do you hope to achieve them?
A: The first is to continue to educate our staff around cultural humility and addressing our implicit bias. When we show up at a family’s doorstep where there are some obvious cultural differences, we want our workers to be informed so they are being culturally humble.
We want to educate not only our staff but also community members and professionals because everyone in Texas is a mandated reporter.
How do we become more supporters than reporters? How can we take the extra step forward and understand what’s happening with a family and connect them to resources that would help them thrive and never come to the attention of the child welfare system.
We also want to continue to learn and hear best practice strategies for the dynamics around family preservation, and how we can keep families together in a safe way.
Thirdly, we have a team we’ve pulled together with Casey Family Programs to help identify what some of the root causes are when families come to the attention of child welfare. Then develop a prevention framework that supports families and changes the data of outcomes.
Q: What do you feel have been the biggest resiliency factors for the Black community when confronting these historical and societal challenges within child welfare?
A: The black community has been through a lot.
We understand what’s happening and have a tendency to be able to come together and draw strength from one another. That’s certainly resiliency in its best form.
We develop and build relationships to be able to move this fight forward toward equality. Difficult and challenging as it may be, it is totally worth the effort.