This summer I have been given the opportunity to write about the wonderful people who are working alongside me to inspire a Re-Envisioning of Foster Care in America – ordinary citizens of all ages and backgrounds with great stories to tell. My goal: to honor friends, family and colleagues who are actively shaping the REFCA Movement and leading our nation forward.
Last night as I was sitting at my desk writing, I received a phone call from a new foster parent – a woman I met when I launched our first Treehouse Community. She is a passionate child advocate with a truly generous heart.
Her experience as a foster parent has been difficult. She doesn’t feel respected by the social workers assigned to her children. One child did not receive the mental health services he required nor did she receive the ongoing support she needed to meet his emerging needs. Frustrated, she picked up the phone and called the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families. The Commissioner responded with grace and wisdom. She drove out to this woman’s home and listened to her speak about the experience.
I encouraged her to continue communicating her thoughts and feelings to Department staff, to hang in there, and to be the advocate our children placed in foster care need her to be: educated, informed, and collaborative.
Standing on the front lines of our child welfare system and caring for our most vulnerable children is a truly humbling experience. It is also important, rewarding, enlightening, challenging, and necessary. Foster parents are given the task of keeping our eyes on the prize – our most vulnerable children and youth. It’s a critical role that the child welfare system and the kids need us to fill. They need the best and the brightest. It’s their lives we’re protecting and their futures we’re responsible for.
If I hadn’t become a foster parent, I would not have become a full time child advocate,
and spent the past 12 years investing in foster care innovation. I am profoundly grateful for the experience. It was a dynamic catalyst that has led to widespread collaborative social change. Here is the Salient Take Away from my experience:
Our child welfare system is in trouble. It is overwhelmed and under resourced and it has been for a long time …. We ask it to do the impossible. We say, “Here. You take care of our most vulnerable and at risk children. We, the taxpayers, will give you a little funding to do the job. Then we’ll leave you alone to do the work and only pay attention if something goes wrong. And, if something goes wrong … Well, then we’ll put your head on the chopping block.”
This is the reason I sold my business. We have set our child welfare system up to fail. This paradigm is not working. For children, families, social workers, schools, government or
society. Every year nearly 25,000 young people “age out” of foster care: the next generation of poor and homeless Americans. They are at risk for homelessness, incarceration, unemployment, teen parenting, and lives of poverty.
Here in Massachusetts concerned citizens are Re-Envisioning Foster Care. We are actively leveraging people, dollar, and idea resources to better serve children and youth placed
in our child welfare system. I can’t wait to share our success stories with you. I
guarantee you will be inspired to join the Re-Envisioning Foster Care in America Movement!