For the better part of five decades, I have worked with Foster Parents (now re-branded as Resource Parents). This group of extraordinary, unique individuals have certainly left an indelible, positive imprint on my life. I am not sure I have the skills to craft an appropriate expression of gratitude I have for those who have turned their homes and lives into sanctuaries, hospitals, safe havens, classrooms and sometimes even battlefields for our children and youth (and not without costs)... but here I go.
Category: Voice of our CEO
It is interesting how we evolve in our thinking—I like to believe it just gets better the older we get. For nearly 30 years now I have been at the helm of a “Nonprofit” organization, a term which certainly elicits a multiplicity of responses, not all of which are positive. The fact is, I don’t like the term “nonprofit.” When I was working on my graduate degree in business administration, the vogue terminology was “Third-Sector” organizations, in which I specialized. I’m sure you all know what that means, but just in case you forgot, it is simply the economic sector consisting of non-governmental organizations and other non-profit organizations. For many years, I chose to refer to our industry as “Not-for-Profit,” a more apt description, but, honestly, I really don’t like this term either.
“I am a child, I'll last a while. You can't conceive of the pleasure in my smile. You hold my hand, rough up my hair. It's lots of fun to have you there...” Children, each an amazing gift, are totally dependent on parents for love and comfort; for life and survival; for health and safety; for training and development; and for joy and laughter. Every child embodies innocence, creativity, imagination, energy, unique skills and talents, and unimaginable potential. And yet, on the day you read this article, eight children in America will die of abuse and neglect. It’s unimaginable.
“I am a child, I'll last a while. You can't conceive of the pleasure in my smile. You hold my hand, rough up my hair. It's lots of fun to have you there...” These iconic words written by Neil Young in the mid-sixties give us an interesting perspective of the child-parent relationship from the child’s perspective. The song continues, “God gave to you, now, you give to me, I'd like to know what you learned. The sky is blue and so is the sea. What is the color, when black is burned, what is the color?” I won’t assume to know exactly what Mr. Young was trying to convey in these words, but there are some interesting elements here which I would like to explore and apply to a broader discussion.
Tirelessly endeavoring to enhance our collective quality of life, promoting social justice and improving the wellbeing of the community--this is Social Work. “SOCIAL” relates to the broader collective community; and “WORK” originates from the relentless efforts of “worker” bees and ants. Principles of social justice, human rights and dignity, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are embedded in the practice and profession of Social Work.
Foster Care Reform has been a smoking hot issue the last few years in California and at the federal level. Of course, in my 40 something years of working in the foster care system, it’s always been an issue, and for good reason.
There are two distinct perspectives on why the Foster Care System needs to be reformed: one, from the Human Services perspective, the system does not effectively serve children and youth; and, two, from the legislative-bureaucratic perspective, it costs too much.
Relationships. There has been much written on the topic of relationships. Ranging from difficult to understand clinical research articles to blogs, books and websites, you can find information on every type of relationship in just about every type of format. Romantic relationships, family relationships, work relationships, casual relationships, nurturing relationships, dysfunctional relationships, healthy relationships, abusive relationships… which can only lead us to one conclusion—Relationships are Important!
Two days before Christmas, I witnessed a wonderful demonstration of generosity and compassion. A local automotive dealer, Mike McCarthy, donated a minivan full of toys to one of our families with three small children who have been working their way out of homelessness and into self-sufficiency. It is really a heartwarming story. For the most part, the mom had been raised in the foster care system. As a teenager, she participated in the Family Care Network’s Transitional Age Youth programs where she learned enough skills to venture out on her own.
Yesterday, I received news that a long time, former SLO County Social Worker passed away; her name was Marilyn Stein. Marilyn was a great friend and supporter of the Family Care Network and probably one of the most influential individuals in the development of several of our core service programs. I will forever feel indebted to her for her contributions, guidance and encouragement.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote, “Home is the nicest word there is!” I wish this was true for everyone; but on any given day, more than 400,000 American children have no home to call their own. Think for a moment about “Home”--what that means to you and what it would be like if you had no place to call Home?