Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt intimidated, shy, excessively nervous, restrained or unwilling to make your opinion known. Now look around you, there’s probably a lot of hands in the air! On the other hand (no pun intended), there are plenty of people who we wish would be less obsessed with being verbose; you know, the hot-air syndrome. Either way, we are so fortunate to live in a society where we can freely speak our mind and give voice to what is important to us.
Category: Voice of our CEO
Relationships are interesting. They are kind of like cells in our body. You know how cells are always bumping into each other, some attach to make new things, some just float around independently, and some join together to fight off bad stuff. We are always bumping into people through the routines of our everyday lives. Through this process we make new friends or acquaintances, maybe even enemies; but from time to time, a relationship will just click and a real connection and unusual bond is forged. Well, I feel very fortunate to have “bumped” into Jac Jacobs, his wife, Trish, and their son, Mathew. Ours has definitely been a relationship that clicked; and for 14 years later we’re still fast friends.
Over the past four years, California has undertaken a colossal effort to “reform” the state’s foster care system. Much has been written about this initiative, so I won’t dive into the details. In essence, the Continuum of Care Reform (or CCR as it is referred to) will, theoretically at least, move thousands of youth from group homes/congregate care to family-based services; it will recast group homes as short-term residential treatment programs (STRTP) to prevent kids from being raised in group homes; it will make it easier for youth placed with relatives to receive appropriate services; and it will introduce new levels of provider accountability, all to ensure a faster, more efficient way to achieve permanency for foster children and youth. It sounds great, actually. And as a concept, it is great, but…
Prison is no place anyone would want to be; restricting, dark, unsafe and punitive. It is a place we isolate a segment of our society whose conduct prevents them from remaining within the larger population; individuals who have, to one degree or another, hurt others. It is a place where one’s independence and self-worth is stripped away and replaced with total subjugation and control. The word “prison” usually conjures up very negative imagery: bad people, horrible environment, survival of the fittest; where people leave more sophisticated and evil than when they arrived.
But this isn’t always the case.
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.
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.