The Practice of Caring

A Discussion on Social Justice
Jim Roberts
September, 1, 2021 -

All of us at the Family Care Network are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to provide for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of our most vulnerable populations: victims of neglect, abuse, and social injustice through our Practice of Caring–Social Justice at work. Working hand-in-hand with direct treatment services, delivered through multiple programs, is our passion and commitment to Prevention Services. Effective Social Justice is the prevention of neglect, abuse and injustice.

Let me begin by bringing emphasis to an important fact–the clinical interventions, services and supports we provide are not only therapeutic in the sense of effectively promoting healing by treating trauma and injustice, but, in many respects, they are also Preventative. Here are some examples.

When we provide therapeutic interventions to traumatized children and youth, we are helping them develop the skills for effective self-management to stabilize their behaviors. The outcome is the prevention of institutionalization, hospitalization and/or long-term dependency on “system” resources. This also prevents the disruption of key relationships, i.e., family, friends, and at school. The earlier we are able to intercede in a child’s life, the greater the chances are for long-term stability, health and wellbeing. Effective trauma informed interventions can break the “cycle of abuse,” preventing generational abuse and neglect.

Research demonstrates that providing transitional housing and developing the skills necessary for securing and maintaining safe housing plays a very significant role in preventing further homelessness and housing insecurity. Similarly, assisting a youth or family in developing their own community-based support group, creates a social safety net and prevents a number of social, emotional, and support challenges.

One way we help to prevent poverty is to provide individuals with the motivation, resources, and skills necessary to obtain a career that provides a living wage. This is an important treatment goal for all our Transitional Age Youth, homeless families and some Wraparound families. We make every effort to help our clients become untethered from “system” dependency and become viably self-sufficient!

Because FCNI works predominantly with children, youth, and young families, we are able to intervene at a critical time in their lives in order to Prevent a lifetime of problems. 

Our Social Justice philosophy is manifested in several other Prevention arenas as well.

As I discussed in Part 3 of this series, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) are extraordinarily destructive and damaging, resulting in long-term or lifelong emotional, physical or mental problems. Armed with this knowledge, the Family Care Network is aggressively working with our local County partners, as well as state and federal entities, towards the creation of effective early intervention and prevention services. FCNI has done a wonderful job of working with children and youth after the damages done; after they have gone “over the falls” and crashed on the rocks below. Social Justice says, “Provide services far upstream to prevent children from going ‘over the falls’!”

How is this accomplished? By engaging the community to: 1) Strengthen economic supports to families; 2) Promote social norms that protect against violence and adversity; 3) Ensure a strong early start for children; 4) Teach prevention skills; 5) Connect youth to caring adults and activities; 6) Intervene quickly to mitigate and lessen immediate and long-term consequences, and make services easily available without stigma or threat of punitive action; and 7) Raise public awareness of ACEs by:

  • Changing how people think about the causes of ACEs and who could help prevent them.
  • Shifting the focus from individual responsibility to community solutions.
  • Reducing stigma around seeking help with parenting challenges, mental illness or for substance misuse, depression, or suicidal thoughts.
  • Promoting safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments where children live, learn and play.

Under the umbrella of the Children’s Services Network Council (CSN), the Family Care Network works very closely with our partner agencies--both public and private--in developing early intervention and prevention services and programs for our local community. In the past few years there have been some significant pieces of legislation passed at both the federal and state level designed to greatly expand early intervention and prevention programs to prevent ACEs and involvement within the Juvenile Court System. This is a very exciting development with great Social Justice potential. One of our primary strategic goals moving forward is to become the “go to” early intervention and prevention provider on the Central Coast.

Social Justice says, “Preventing ACEs is a community responsibility requiring strong Leadership and action!”

Another unique component of the FCNI Prevention model, is the integration of the community into our direct services arena. One of the best ways to prevent a negative life impact, is to provide education, instruction, inspiration and a new path forward. For decades now, our organization has benefited greatly from individuals in our business and professional communities willing to dedicate time to educate and mentor our clients. Our clients have learned about a number of types of businesses and careers, and what it takes to achieve them. They have learned about banking, budgeting, making positive life choices, and saving for the future. Our clients have been taught how to be good employees, good stewards, good parents, good neighbors, and good citizens. We have been able to provide some incredible positive role models for them to emulate.

Similarly, we have had some very successful individuals from our community share their life stories; how they experienced trauma and troubled lives in their early years, and how they were able--with the help of others--to persevere, overcome adversity, and rise to success. It is so powerful when a young person can connect with a successful adult who went through similar kinds of challenges, heartbreak and obstacles they are experiencing.

For nearly three decades, FCNI has used Family and Youth Partners to assist our clients and help them navigate the system “Peer-to-Peer.” These are individuals who have been in and benefited from the system and/or our services. They know firsthand what it’s like to be in the situation our youth and families find themselves in, and are now blessed to have a story of success and accomplishment to share. 

These “voices of experience” provide hope, inspiration and the tenacity to be an overcomer–to fight the good fight and rise above the mire and entanglements holding them back from their goals. Social Justice says, “Provide strength to the weak, hope to the hopeless, light in darkness, and encouragement to the downtrodden!”

Over the span of my career I have heard it time and time again that for every dollar invested In prevention and early intervention brings a tenfold positive return. The Family Care Network is passionately engaged in efforts to make that happen. In my next article, I will discuss the Power of Advocacy as a pillar of Social Justice and our Practice of Caring!