Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Walking the Walk

I am a talker. Not an overly chatty person, but someone who likes to have long, deep, soul seaching, psychological, (sometimes even philosophical), conversations with my close friends. I love to flesh out an issue, further explore an idea, state my position, and occasionally just get up on my soapbox and vent.

And, this blog is undoubtedly an extension of that love.

However, as much as I love to 'talk the talk', I admit that sometimes I do not 'walk the walk'. Or, I think that I am walking the walk...

Until I get to talking about something...

Really thinking about the subject...

Then I am forced to take a really long, hard look at myself.

What is that saying about being careful about pointing fingers?

Oh yes, three more pointing right back at me!

Such was the case recently when I wrote this - a mostly ranty/somewhat preachy post about helping people in need.

I really believed what I talked about there - the longer I am a social worker, the more I see how we humans fail each other desperately. I see us spout phrases like, "it takes a village", while most of us build our houses in the suburbs to those villages. We don't actually want to LIVE in those villages where we all need each other - we pride ourselves on self sufficency! We'll donate our clothes, money, and maybe even our time (scheduled in, a couple hours a month) to charities in those villages.

But we aren't really that comfortable being a full member of the village.

I talked a lot in that post about helping people in our own backyards. And, I've talked about it before here and here and here. But the more I thought about it, the more God weighed on my heart.

I haven't really been walking that walk as well as I have been talking that talk.

I persuaded myself into believing that I was doing my part - I mean, I work on behalf of children and families every day! Okay, not every day - but five days a week! At least 40 hours a week!

That's plenty of walking the walk...right?

And I would be happy to do more, but there are some barriers and red tape that prevent me from doing so. I've wanted to be a foster parent for a long time - but the time has never been quite right. I'm a single person, I work long hours and don't have tons of extra money laying around, I live in a small apartment that wouldn't meet licensing standards.

I felt justified in letting myself off the hook for that for now...

So, I felt justified enough to write a post about helping your neighbor, supporting those in need, keeping families together. And I stand behind what I wrote:

Wouldn't it be wonderful if less children came into foster care? Not because of funding cuts or new policies or legislation - but because less children were being abused and neglected?

Wouldn't we all love it if foster care worked better for the families involved? Not because of some new initiative - but because there were fewer cases and they could be easier followed and serviced?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if those children that did come into care suffered less long- term consequences? Not because we yanked them out of their families sooner - but because we could get them appropriate services and they didn't have to move around as much?

By the same token, wouldn't it be stunning if fewer parents felt compelled to place their children for adoption? If they didn't worry that just because they were young, or might lose a job, might not be able to pay their rent, or because they didn't have a supportive family - that they had to "give up" a child that they loved?

What if we never had to risk a child feeling abandoned or unwanted? What if the only reason a child had to be adopted was because they were truly an orphan?

But, here is the truth that I have come to realize and believe. I may work in child welfare - but I do not believe that any agency is capable of actually stopping all the terrible things that happen to children and families out in the world. There is too much beaurocracy in agencies. Way too much red tape. The "one size fits all" approach of most organizations doesn't leave room for the vast array of individual circumstances.

And, I may be a social worker, but I don't believe that the answer is more social workers.There is too much distrust of social workers. There are too many people just "doing their job". And, a social worker goes home at some point and tries to leave their work at the office. On call services are nice, but they aren't the solution either.

So, what do I think is the solution?

I believe the answer is people. People helping other people. Not just the people who have already been identified as "at risk". Not just the children who have already been abused and neglected. Not just when intervention is the only answer.

I would love for reality to be closer to that picture above than the one I'm currently faced with every day. And, after writing that post, and reading your comments, and contemplating my own life... I've decided I needed to walk the walk a little bit more. I need to be part of the solution - and for me, that means being part of helping prevent children from coming into foster care. Being more deliberate in supporting families - so that a temporary crisis doesn't mean a permanant seperation of children and parents. And I want to do more than "just doing my job". I want my life to reflect these hopes and beliefs.

I'll be talking (okay, blogging) about it more as things unfold - which they seem to be doing quite quickly!

Stay tuned!

(Next part of the journey is here!)


  1. Yay!! I think all your talk has prepared you for some good, supportive walking (and, in fact, I think that's one of the greatest benefits of these blogs) and I'm sure you'll do well!!

  2. I have that same feeling sometimes. I want to do the best that I can do all the time. I have really been trying and praying for strength to be the person my heart wants me to be. We have two little foster boys and I have two of my own. We have decided to take another child if we are needed. I have decided my main focus needs to be helping the birth parents get it together. I will be praying for God to give you strength and I will try to join you on your journey!!

  3. I agree wholeheartedly!!!

    A friend of mine has been part of a support system similar to what your describing, a relief/respite system for struggling parents, and it had am immense effect on her life, and those of her children.

    Options like this, allowed her, a single mother with no extended family, the time to work on herself, the space to get medications and therapy right (when adjustments occurred), and not have to subject her children to state-mandated foster care.

    One of the things I find most frustrating about healing/recovery is the limited resources, failures in the system, and levels of desperation before an intervention/help/aid is given.

    When discussing my life - the progress I've made, and I hear the encouragement of others, people who tell me I'm an inspiration, that they're amazed at whatever..

    I always have to pause and say, that I have never heard a 'success' story, that didn't involve someone offering the story-teller caring/encouragement/hope, even if it was just an smile from afar.

    Thank you for listening to your heart and being more than 'just another professional' =)

  4. I hear what you're saying! EVERY LAST WORD!

    I spent some time at a "Place of Safety" in Jamaica and really felt a bond with a child there... and as much as I wanted him to be a part of my family... more than ANYTHING I wanted his mom (a young mother who found herself in the system at a young age as well)... to be able to provide for him... to have the resources... to not HAVE to give him up.

    The answer is people. the answer is neighbors showing compassion for each other. - I often times fall into this trap of thinking all this love and compassion talk is too idealistic... SO THANK YOU for your post. SO EMPOWERING!

  5. I am so glad you shared this link with me. I am hooked! I can't wait to hear more about your journey through this.


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