New York State Partners in Policymaking 2018 Speakers Series

June 8, 2018

Caitlin will be presented a workshop on Community Organizing for Inclusion as part of the New York State Partners in Policymaking 2018 Speakers Series this August!

Get all of the details by clicking here.


My 2017 Year in Review

December 31, 2017

2017 was my first full calendar year working as a self-employed consultant. Self-employment has its challenges and it isn’t always easy or glamorous. I am proud of myself for quitting my full-time salaried job on a leap of faith and a commitment to continuing my values-based work while learning to prioritize my own self-care. Since it can be hard to pause and reflect on what I am doing when I’m in the weeds, I decided that I would do a personal year in review to celebrate some of the things I have accomplished and learned both personally and professionally. Because I am trying to write and share more about what I am up to, I decided that using my blog would be a good step in that direction.

When I left my job in May of 2016, I was burnt out and I was in bad shape mentally and physically. I was emaciated and malnourished and I had run my body into the ground. I had fallen into old patterns of neglecting my basic needs and was living in a constant state of anxiety, pressure, stress, exhaustion, hunger, shame and guilt. I’d lost touch with many people I loved, as I was either in full on work mode or I was shut down, non-functioning, and in need of solitude. My leadership coach, Dewey Schott, introduced me to the Trauma Exposure Response from the book Trauma Stewardship which I immediately read. This was the turning point for me when I realized that the only way I could get back to a healthy baseline was to find a dramatically different way to do my work and live my life. 

This year I am proud that I have stayed alive and am healthier than I have been in many years. I have learned that I am much better equipped to handle stress and keep my depression and anxiety at bay when I consistently get good sleep, eat regularly, stay on a routine and have permission to pace myself. For me this means avoiding staying in bed all day and sleeping too much, as well as not getting enough sleep. This year I was able to create new routines and stick to them (though trust me, I still totally do days in bed and nights without enough sleep on occasion!) I only recently realized just how sick I was as I have started to feel strong, healthy and connected again.

Even the stressful or high-pressure parts of what I do seem much more manageable because how I approach my work has changed, as has my ability to set and hold boundaries without guilt. I am able to be present, step back when needed and identify what my triggers are. I still have patterns that pop up, but I am able to notice and anticipate them in a way that gives me permission and space to imagine and then try new ways to navigate them.  

I have learned to continue to listen to and trust my instincts, my gut and my body. Throughout my life I have made many decisions that are outside of what people have expected me to do, and at times this has likely led me down a harder path to where I was going. Ultimately, living true to myself and trusting that I already know what I need has generally worked out for me in the long run. I have learned resilience, survival, discipline, frugality, and creating new ways to break into the places people say me and those I love can not go. What I call my “work” is not really work in the traditional sense, it is my life and how I live. But I have to stay alive and healthy to do it well and with integrity.

As usual, none of  this would have been possible without a strong community of friends, family, mentors, colleagues and co-conspirators. I am immensely privileged to be so connected, loved and supported by an incredible community of people. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my year and have given me strength, made me laugh, connected me to work opportunities, challenged me, taught me something, told me their story, fed me and/or helped to keep me afloat in the more difficult moments. I think you know who you are, but I will keep working to do a better job of telling you directly.

Here are some of the other things that happened for me personally and professionally in 2017:

  • I worked my first legislative session as a Lobbyist and Legislative Consultant in the Georgia General Assembly and SB185 was introduced to lower the standard of proof for intellectual disability in death penalty cases. Though the bill did not pass in 2017, we had a hearing on the on the bill by the Senate Judiciary Committee and I provided testimony in support. I will continue my work to pass this legislation during the upcoming 2018 legislative session.
2017 Lobbyist Badge

My 2017 Lobbyist Badge

  • I helped to organize a celebration of the life of my friend and mentor Dottie Adams, who died at the end of 2016.
  • My friend Gabby and I completed over 75 individual quilt squares designed by folks who attended Dottie’s workshop at the 2016 Georgia Gathering.
Quilts Squares 2017

A few of the quilt squares

  • I facilitated an introductory Asset-Based Community Development workshop for a the Beloved Community in Statesboro, GA.
  • I completed a 1-day graphic facilitation training and a 2-day MAPS/PATH training facilitated by Lynda Kahn and Jack Pearpoint.
  • I applied for and got an interview for a dream job.
  • I designed and facilitated 6 trainings on Intellectual Disability and the Death Penalty in Georgia.
  • I presented about community building for inclusion alongside my dear friend DeAmon Harges to a group of folks involved with Neigbours Inc. in New Jersey.
  • I co-designed and co-facilitated two workshops,”Equity and Community Engagement in Grantmaking” and “Leading by Stepping Back: Meaningful Resident Partnership in Service Provision and Community Development” with DeAmon Harges and Lisa Duran in Denver, sponsored by Grassroots Grantmakers, the Denver Foundation and The Learning Tree.
  • I organized a quilt photo shoot with photographer Robin Rayne Nelson (in space donated by Pride School Atlanta) of some of Dottie Adams’ quilts.
  • I celebrated 19 years of veganism in April.
  • I celebrated a year of self-employment in May.
  • I got to work with and support some of my favorite Community Builders in different ways.
  • I realized that many of the people I worked with over the years have become my close friends and I have enjoyed spending more social time with them.
  • I stayed connected with my with my mentors and colleagues and continually found ways to stretch, learn and challenge myself personally and professionally. 
  • I participated in the Hall County Relay for Life in honor of Dottie Adams.
  • I met with many legislators and got to explore new towns in rural Georgia that I had never been to before.
  • I served as a group leader for Power of Roles trainings in Morrow, Dublin, Tifton and Columbus.
  • I spoke at the launch of a Lush Cosmetics bath bomb at Perimeter Mall which gave proceeds to groups working to abolish the death penalty.
  • I went to San Francisco for a vacation with some of my closest friends and didn’t just do family stuff.
  • I celebrated my partner, Lis, getting a new job in June and we celebrated 2 years together in July.
Lis and Caitlin at Robins wedding

Lis and Caitlin

  • I paid my quarterly federal taxes and stayed super organized with my receipts, mileage logs, and book keeping.
  • I helped my best friend pack up several generations of stuff at his parents house and box up important family heirlooms.
  • I helped organize the Georgia Disability History Symposium at the University of Georgia and facilitated a panel as part of the event.
  • I traveled to Savannah for the annual birthday party we throw for my friend, Johnny.
  • I hosted my brilliant, young, cat-loving and aspiring attorney friend, DeJanae, for a week. I got to introduce her to some of my favorite ATLiens, take her to the Cat Cafe and bring her along to some of my work meetings that were law-related, including one at the State Bar of Georgia.
  • I applied for and didn’t get a fellowship I really wanted.
  • I talked to a group of local high school students about community building and why I love my neighborhood.
  • I successfully completed and assisted with a 4-day Introduction to Social Role Valorization training in Tifton, GA.
  • I threw a party for one of my best friends to celebrate 10 years since we almost lost him in a motorcycle accident.
  • I celebrated the marriage of a dear friend.
  • I applied for and got a grant.
  • I said “no” when I needed to and “yes” when I wanted to.
  • I was able to show up and support friends in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to a couple years ago.
  • I reconnected with many friends I’d lost touch with when I was working way too much.
  • I attended the Georgia Advocacy Office‘s 40th anniversary gala.
  • I co-designed and co-facilitated the workshop “Equity and Community Engagement in Grantmaking: How Grantmaking Benefits When Residents Are Involved In Philanthropy” with Lisa Duran and DeAmon Harges in Atlanta sponsored by Grassroots Grantmakers, The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.
  • I group led What is a Home and assistant group led Meaningful Day workshops in Savannah.
  • I took on a freelance writing project for a group that I love and I got to hire a talented friend to do the layout and design.
  • I was able to drop everything and make a last minute trip to visit my grandmother in San Francisco when she had been in the hospital.
  • I co-designed and co-facilitated a 4 hour “Community Building for Inclusion” workshop at TASH in Atlanta with Basmat Ahmed, Jenna Quigley, and Teri Schell and it was a huge success!
Jenna Teri Basmat Caitlin TASH

Jenna, Teri, Basmat and I after finishing our workshop at TASH

  • I secured 4 contracts for work in 2018 before the end of 2017.
  • I remembered how much I love designing and facilitating spaces for folks to come together to learn.
  • I finally made it down to Monroeville, AL and got to leave a camellia on Harper Lee’s grave.
Harper Lee Grave

Harper Lee’s grave in Monroeville, AL

  • I read more books.
  • I wrote (which is something I plan to do more of next year!)
  • I kept a beautiful and lush garden of flowers alive and thriving with only a few casualties. I also successfully grew vegetables in the container garden on my porch.
  • I kept a dog alive and helped her to learn how to trust again (and honestly, she could probably say the same about me!)
Sleepy Jessie

Jessie the dog

  • I drove 4,965.65 miles for work in my car (and way more if I count the miles I drove on other people’s cars!)

Here’s to these lessons learned and adventures had in 2017 and the ones yet to come in 2018!

The Georgia Disability History Symposium 2017 Video is Online

November 29, 2017

A video of the presentations and panel is now available on YouTube. You can view it by clicking here. 

Community Building for Inclusion at the TASH Conference in Atlanta

October 6, 2017

TASH is holding their annual conference in Atlanta, GA December 13-15, 2017.  I will be presenting a 4-hour workshop on Community Building for Inclusion on Wednesday December 13th from 8am-12pm alongside Community Builders Basmat Ahmed, Jenna Quigley, Teri Schell. To register or get more information, visit the conference website here.

Pasted below and linked here is a description of the workshop:

For nearly nine years, a group of ordinary people living across the state of Georgia have been actively learning together how to work for social justice and build opportunities for intentional and reciprocal relationships between people with and without disabilities.
Drawing from approaches and philosophies such as Asset Based Community Development, Popular Education, Intersectionality, Person Centered Values, and Visionary Organizing, we have learned much about the conditions that encourage all members of a community to contribute and meaningfully participate in civic life, enhance social connections through collective action, and build more avenues to natural supports and relationships outside of human services. Our approach centers people who live at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities, whether they have a disability and/or they are a person of color, LGBTQ, poor, an immigrant, a refugee, or have experienced homelessness or incarceration. We are finding ways to build solidarity and reciprocity across and among identity lines and are learning to become better allies with others working to overcome the injustice of social exclusion, whatever its cause.
This workshop will include an in-depth overview of our work and approach through storytelling and interactive, experiential large and small group activities. Participants will be offered practical ways of how to take these ideas and use them back home.


Georgia Disability History Symposium 2017: The Urgency of the Moment

October 5, 2017

I am thrilled to be a part of this event, which is free to attend. You can register online here and download a copy of the flyer as a pdf here.

2017 Disability Symposium-page-001

For Dottie

May 8, 2017

My dear friend and teacher Dottie Adams passed away on December 27, 2016 after a hard fought battle with cancer. I wrote this piece for the Celebration of Life we organized in Macon, GA May 6, 2017.

You can read more about Dottie here and here.

For Dottie

By: Caitlin Childs

Prepared for Dottie’s Celebration of Life, May 6, 2017

Centenary United Methodist Church, Macon, GA

Preparing my thoughts for today’s gathering was a lot harder than I had anticipated. I am not often at a loss for words, especially when it comes to the people I love and admire, but words truly feel inadequate in conveying all that Dottie meant to me and all the ways that I am who I am today because of the things she taught me. But I know I am in good company here, as I have a feeling a lot of you relate to that sentiment.

I first met Dottie in 2009 when I was hired at Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) to start a statewide community organizing program to bring people with and without disabilities together to work for social change and build relationships, friendships and opportunities for all people to contribute to our communities across Georgia. I had a background in community organizing but was basically brand new to the developmental disability system. My background is very non-traditional compared to many in our field and I was pretty intimidated and felt like a fish out of water in those early days.

Dottie bent over backwards to include me and welcome me to the staff from day one. One of my first memories of Dottie is that she contacted me twice after I had accepted the position but before I started. Once she called to ask if there were certain office supplies I would like to have on my first day and then the second time she called to profusely apologize that she would not be in the office to welcome me on my first day because she had found out she needed to have surgery – I didn’t know at the time that she had cancer but it did strike me as a little odd that she was apologizing for having to miss my first day to have surgery. And even then, Dottie still managed to welcome me on day one with the welcome sign she made for me and hung on my office door. I realized quickly how seriously Dottie took hospitality and making people feel wanted, welcomed and included.

She had a hell of a work ethic and her commitment to everything she did was undeniable. No task was beneath her and she showed up and said yes to just about anything that needed to be done. Though I was barely 26 and in great health when I started at GCDD, I was sometimes exhausted just listening to Dottie tell me what she had on her calendar each week! It was not unusual for her to be in the north Georgia Mountains in the morning, coastal Georgia in the afternoon and back home in Marietta to sleep for a few hours before getting up in the morning and working another full day. And this was while she was sick. I quickly understood that to Dottie, work was not just work. It was who she was and how she lived on or off the clock.

Dottie gave me a complete crash course in the technicalities on how to write contracts and navigate the administrative work at GCDD. We worked a few long days and late nights alongside Pat Nobbie as we applied for (and got!) a large Family Support grant from the feds, something that intimidated the hell out of me. I never would have pulled it off without her calm and steady guidance. Dottie was a planning and logistics genius. She could quickly break down projects or tasks that seemed massively complex and overwhelming to me and come up with a simple and often painfully obvious solution in minutes.

Dottie guided my early constituent calls from folks looking for resources for themselves and their families. She was a walking encyclopedia and telephone book. She clearly and as simply as possible explained the developmental disability waivers and the Medicaid system without ever getting frustrated that it took me quite a few repeated explanations before I began to kind of “get it”. Dottie taught me about the history of person centered work and family support in Georgia. She told me stories of the people and families she had met and supported over the years and took me to meet many of them. She painted a beautiful picture of what could be possible if we dreamed bigger and did our jobs well. She also gave me reality checks and wake-up calls of what happens when we don’t. I learned the system through Dottie but I also learned about how to creatively maneuver that system to support people with disabilities and their families in the ways they truly need and want to be supported. She had an incredible amount of integrity, never made excuses, and always did what it took to get the job done with heart.

Dottie never forgot a birthday and in those first few years I was at GCDD, she baked birthday cakes for every single staff member and brought edible arrangements of fruit in for me, a vegan. Then there was the year that Dottie made personalized quilts for every single member of the staff, even our two interns. She made what turned into 2 quilts documenting the first 7 community sites I supported at GCDD. I have never received such a thoughtful and deeply meaningful gift.

Dottie was a strong and often quiet presence but when she did speak, I quickly learned to shut up, listen and listen well. Our relationship helped to teach me the importance of quiet leaders and not to doubt the power and wisdom that they hold. In fact, I now pay extra attention and make sure to look for the quiet brilliance in the rooms I find myself in.

She was a patient teacher, never patronizing and always clear and direct and kind. She firmly but gently nudged me back on track when I strayed. I am not always as kind and patient as I aspire to be but Dottie loved me anyway and reminded me to go back to kindness when I got overwhelmed or frustrated. She also taught me to pick my battles but that it was always important to fight like hell when it counted.

But beyond being an awesome co-worker and role model, Dottie became a trusted teacher and mentor and above all of that, a loyal and steady friend. She was non-judgmental, always willing to make time for me and to listen. I opened up to her about things I was very private about at work and I felt like she truly saw me for all of me. She supported and nurtured me through break-ups, my brother’s incarceration and multiple major losses and challenges in my life. She was there as I realized I needed to take better care of myself and stood beside me with her gentle and consistent encouragement as I started to figure out how to do that.

When I left GCDD last year to set out on my own, it was not easy or painless, but once again, Dottie showed up for me during this bittersweet and tumultuous transition. On my last day in the office, she went out of her way to celebrate me, my work and my contributions to the organization. She always wanted the people in her life to feel valued, appreciated and honored. And she consistently took any opportunity she could to celebrate us. Dottie supported me in multiple ways during that period. I am not sure how I would have made it through if I hadn’t had her supporting me and reminding me to show up, do my best and to always lead with my heart and my integrity.

A couple years ago an article called What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone by Heather Plett began to make the rounds on Facebook. Before I even read the article, I thought of Dottie. In the article, Heather wrote:

“(Making space) means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgment and control.”

Dottie continued to show up and make space for me and for all the other folks she loved, even as she herself was so ill. She fought hard for so many of us in her friendships, in her work, in her quest to stay here to keep doing what she was born to do. And thank god for that.

I cannot begin to count the number of times since December that I have wanted to pick up the phone to call or drop by for a visit with Dottie. Or the times someone has asked me for advice or resources and I knew that Dottie would know the answer. I think of her often as I struggle and I celebrate and take new risks and dream bigger dreams.  I want do my best to grow into and pay forward all I was lucky enough to learn from her. I want to make her proud. It brings me comfort to know that even though she is gone, she will always be here in all of us whose lives she touched and who were lucky enough to learn from her, love her and be loved by her. What an incredible gift she left behind.

Testimony on SB 185: The Standard of Proof for Intellectual Disability in GA Death Penalty Cases

March 1, 2017

Caitlin Childs Testimony

Georgia Senate Judiciary Sub-Committee B

March 1, 2017

Good afternoon, Senators. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you today in support of Senate Bill 185.

My name is Caitlin Childs. I am the Legislative Consultant and Lobbyist for the Proof to A Preponderance of the Evidence Coalition. This Coalition is made up of a diverse group of stakeholders including Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, Georgia Catholics Against the Death Penalty, as well as criminal defense lawyers, disability professionals and people with disabilities and their family members. Representatives from all of these stakeholder groups are present with us today.

Since 2006, I have worked with people who have intellectual disability, a condition formerly known as mental retardation. Seven of those years were as a staff member at the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, a federally funded state agency.

Intellectual disability, which is still referred to in Georgia code as mental retardation, originates before the age of 18 and is characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior, including everyday social and practical skills. In making a determination that a person is intellectually disabled, clinicinans rely on a number of sources for information including school records, IQ tests and observations of the individual’s behavior in a variety of settings and contexts over time. There is no blood test or universal screening tool that can be used to make this diagnosis.

It was during my time at the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities that I first learned about intellectual disability in the context of the death penalty. I learned that in 1986, Georgia executed Jerome Bowden, a man with intellectual disability. His execution caused such a tremendous public outcry that in 1988 Georgia became the very first state to pass a law to voluntarily ban the execution of people with intellectual disability.

It was 14 years later, in 2002, that the U.S. Supreme Court followed suit in Atkins v. Virginia, ruling that the execution of individuals with intellectual disability was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment. In Atkins, the Supreme Court did not differentiate those with intellectual disability who are higher functioning from those who are lower functioning, but instead ruled that states have a right to convict and punish those with intellectual disability; however they cannot execute them, regardless of their intellectual disability. This bears repeating. Atkins does not prevent punishing someone with intellectual disability. When we are discussing whether to apply the death penalty it is because someone has been murdered. When a person with intellectual disability is convicted of murder in Georgia, Life in Prison remains a sentencing option.

I am proud that the state I love, grew up in, and still proudly call home set the example for the rest of the country and triggered the legislative advocacy nationwide that made the Atkins decision possible.

Despite being the first state to ban the execution of people with intellectual disability, Georgia is the only state in the country that places the most difficult standard of proof on death penalty defendants: they must prove their intellectual disability “beyond a reasonable doubt” – a nearly impossible legal standard to meet given the nature of how an intellectual disability diagnosis is made, deeply-ingrained stereotypes about what intellectual disability is, and misunderstandings about what people with intellectual disability are capable of doing in their daily lives. This is why Georgia continues to sentence to death and execute people with intellectual disability despite the Atkins prohibition.

In 2015, Georgia executed Warren Hill, a man that every expert – including the State’s experts – ultimately agreed had an intellectual disability. Warren Hill’s execution exposes the urgent need to change the “beyond a reasonable doubt” legal standard to a “preponderance of the evidence.” The preponderance standard would give people a fighting chance of proving their intellectual disability to a jury. A preponderance of the evidence is the standard of proof for intellectual disability currently used in 22 other jurisdictions, including most of our surrounding states. Every single jurisdiction that has revisited the standard of proof in light of the Atkins decision has changed their standard of proof to a preponderance of the evidence.

As Georgia citizens, it is our responsibility to come together to protect our most vulnerable citizens and ensure that our policies are in line with the constitution and Supreme Court rulings. In this context, that means that a defendant with an intellectual disability convicted of capital murder would serve a sentence of life imprisonment rather than face an unconstitutional execution. Let us look to our legacy of being the first state to come out against this travesty of justice back in 1988 and get back on the right side of history today.

Thank you again for your time. I am available to answer any questions you may have.