Katy Armendariz had no idea that a last minute decision would allow her to better fulfill a lifelong desire to advocate for racial justice and social change. But that’s exactly what happened when Katy decided to abandon a scholarship for a PhD sociology program just two weeks shy of the first semester. Instead, she enrolled in a Master of Social Work (MSW) program. This last-minute choice stemmed from a personal place, and transformed into a lifelong professional commitment.
An international adoptee who was abandoned at the hospital immediately after birth, spent time in an orphanage, foster care and later adopted to an all-White family, Katy learned personally what the child welfare system was doing wrong, both internationally and domestically. She could see that the child welfare system at home echoed the themes of international adoption and how social injustice and racism led to Black and Brown families being dismantled at astonishingly disproportionate rates, perpetuating centuries of historical trauma and oppression. Homelessness, a mental health condition, and lack of support prevented her own birthmother from being able to parent. Katy knew that marginalized communities are being destroyed by a system that views Black and Brown families in need of ‘saving’ by forcing them into oppressive systems that uphold White Supremacy as the status quo.
In 2014, Katy started Minnesota CarePartner (MNCP) — a mental health and chemical health agency that provides culturally responsive and trauma informed supports to children and families, but they actually walk the walk. She saw a need for in-home services by BIPOC providers who not only represent but also belong to the community. Because substance use is the primary reason for out-of-home placement, which is a social injustice in and of itself, Roots Recovery was developed to support parents with substance use conditions from a harm-reduction, social justice-oriented lens. The majority of Roots Recovery counselors are BIPOC and all staff acknowledge and incorporate the ways in which systemic oppression has contributed to mental health and substance use. Their Parent Community Support Program also offers free parent mentoring, nutrition, trauma informed yoga, BIPOC doulas and lactation consultants, all as part of their effort to provide holistic and de-colonized supports to children and families. Parent community support program services do not require any insurance, nor a pathologizing, Westernized Diagnostic Assessment. They also provide continuing education opportunities related to impacting oppressive systems, historical trauma, activism and counteracting White cultural dominance.
Due to the attachment and race-based trauma of Katy’s experience, Minnesota CarePartner is forever dedicated to advocating for services to be delivered through historical and systemic trauma lenses. Katy is in recovery herself and commits her life to community-based healing and recovery on a broader level through policy efforts to dismantle the very systems that create the need for services like MNCP’s.
Katy was a Civil Rights Commissioner for Ward 12 in Minneapolis, served on the board of directors for the Minnesota Trauma Project, and was for a short time the Cultural Outreach Chair of the Ramsey County Children’s Mental Health Collaborative. She received the Outstanding Service Award from the MN Association for Children’s Mental Health in 2016. These efforts complement her mission to advocate alongside disenfranchised communities to dismantle racist systems.