The longer I work in fields dealing with large systems, or large issues, the more convinced I am that our approach to finding solutions is wrong. We have everything from large state/national departments to tiny nonprofits working in these fields. We ask them to move mountains with no money. We ask them to staff up departments full of folks who have expertise that prove we can move these mountains. We ask those folks to not only be experts* in their field while also knowing how to market, fundraise, manage a budget, build an effective and high functioning board, work with the board, develop and maintain a vast network of influential people, know the legislative system of their city/state country and how to navigate that. And then we ask these organizations to tackle the issue on every front; not just keep their organization afloat and efficient, but to come up with new, innovate, creative ways to solve the systems and systemic issues at the same time.
Are you tired, yet? I am. Everyone I know in the field is. We need a new solution to finding solutions. We need to take a look at our expectations of the folks working on solutions. I think we need to take a step back. What if we all had a smaller area we were experts in? What if we each had a more defined and designated role in the solution creation wheel? What if we each could wear one hat (ok, that sounds impossible even to me, we’ll go with two hats)? And then, what if we came together, each with our own experience, our own expertise, our own little piece of the pie, and figured out solutions?
What if we were no longer territorial, or worried that we aren’t the smartest in the room, or concerned about whether or not we had the full answer on our own? What if we knew we were just a contributor? But our contribution was going to move the needle, find a more creative and innovative solution? And possibly (just maybe) point us to better solutions that kept the real issue at the center of the conversation (rather than needed resources, power plays, or anything else)? What would that conversation look like? What would that world look like?
We would have folks who weren’t burnt-out, strung-out, worried about a million different things that have zero to do with the conversation working to figure out how to ensure families are supported before foster care is even a question. I wonder what ideas would come from that conversation.
*Side note on being the “expert," not for nothing, that is daunting in and of itself. For example: please know everything there is to know about the psychological impacts of being involved in the foster care system as a child (read: you need to know everything about street drugs, perception drugs, poverty; housing and food insecurities; learning, mental, and physical disabilities; race and systematic racism; LQBTQIA+ issues, etc. And you need to know the impacts and intersectionalities of all of these issues. All with the single lens of how “foster care” effects the child.) But I digress... this will be a different post.