The Practice of Caring: A Discussion on Social Justice, Part 2

Jim Roberts, CEO/Founder
July, 7, 2021 -

The Family Care Network (FCNI) is a purveyor of “Social Justice” through our Practice of Caring for the children, youth and families on the Central Coast. This means we are committed to “providing what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of our most vulnerable populations, victims of neglect, abuse and social injustice.” Social justice is rooted in the idea that all people should have equal rights, opportunity and treatment. It promotes fairness and equity, safety and security, health and wellbeing across society.

In my last article on the Practice of Caring, I provided an overview and history and nexus of Social Justice and Social Work. I also shared my personal beliefs that guided me to launch the Family Care Network and direct its operations over these past 34 years. In this, and in subsequent articles I will take a deeper dive into the influence of Social Justice on our specific programs and services to the community.

Let me begin with our name: Family – Care – Network! 

“Family” is our most venerated and important social institution. This is where Social Justice should be taught, practiced and promoted. Family is where children should feel safe and secure; where their health and wellbeing are a primary focus. This is where children learn about fairness, equity and respect for others. A healthy Family is a safe haven and an incubator for developing positive attitudes, self-esteem, socialization skills, empathy and compassion for others, forgiveness, and a sense of community responsibility. Family should be an environment that nurtures positive skills to effectively handle crisis and real life challenges; develops solutions, promotes creativity and imagination; and develops individuals to become contributors to society through the unique skills, talents and characteristics they possess. Social Justice says, “every child deserves a family!”

One of the primary motivators for me to start FCNI was to bring Therapeutic Foster (Family) Care (TFC) to California. It was a program model being developed in Virginia by Professor/Researcher Robert Hawkins, PhD, and Presley Ridge, a long-standing children services organization. Basically, TFC was a pilot using specially trained Families, surrounded by intensive services and supports, to care for foster youth with challenging behaviors in a Family setting instead of institutional care, with great success. And we did this! FCNI was the first licensed foster care provider in California to provide TFC. We began by providing healthy Families to foster youth as a key component to our Practice of Caring.

But there’s another side of the Family discussion–the breakdown of the Family. Due to the pressures of Social Injustice and declining social mores, the institution of the Family has come under serious assault. Poverty, discrimination, inequality, disenfranchisement, social isolation, the lack of services and supports, and a feeling of helplessness are all social injustices contributing to the breakdown of the Family. Social injustice is a door to substance abuse, neglect, abuse, domestic violence and family dishevel. These conditions create a downward spiral which is very difficult to be extricated from.

At the Family Care Network, our Practice of Caring includes a variety of programs designed to strengthen, rebuild and improve Family functioning. “Familia de’Novo” is a term which captures the heart of our Family-Based services–it means reconstructed or renewed Family. Social Justice says, “Families deserve every resource available to be healthy, functional and free from the impact of Social Injustice!"

“Care” is the next significant element not only of our name, but serves as the foundation of all of our programs, services, activities and community engagement. FCNI exists because we CARE! Remember, to Care means providing what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of others. Social Justice is driven on the principle of caring for others; that all people have equal rights, opportunity and treatment; with fairness and equity, safety and security, health and wellbeing across society. The FCNI Practice of Caring is Social Justice at work!

Lastly, let’s talk about “Network.” Community change must be driven by the community. One of the most effective strategic practices of Social Justice is Community Organization to create solutions to indigenous community problems. My vision for the Family Care Network 35 years ago was the integration of our community, on multiple levels, into our Practice of Caring. Thus, our mission is “to enhance the wellbeing of children and families, in partnership with our community.” An organization like ours can have the best, most competent staff, outstanding programs, great governance and administration, but will never achieve maximum impact without Community Integration. In 30+ years of serving this community, we have learned through experience that networking with the community enhances service delivery and improves outcomes exponentially. Social Justice says, “the more individuals with diverse opinions and skills involved in creating solutions, the more effective they will be!” 

We have created the identity of the Family Care Network by thoughtful design. It is more than a company name–it embodies Social Justice principles, underlying beliefs and values, and our Mission. It is the soul and heart of our Practice of Caring!