Last week, I had the opportunity to be reminded of why I work in child welfare. I attended the Annual Meeting of the non-profit organization, Camp To Belong. I also attended the meeting of the Board of Directors, meeting for the first time several people whose voices I have only heard over the phone line in the past few months.
I have to admit, it was a bit of a culture shock at first. These are people who are so committed to their cause (siblings separated in foster and adoptive placements) that one can almost feel it in the air. They give freely of their time, skills, and energies to support the mission of the organization that for some, has been a journey of several years and has included a personal investment in vulnerable children and youth involved in the child welfare system.
I have worked in child welfare for a number of years. It has been a part of my professional life for two decades and counting. However, I have been removed from the ‘front lines’ for several years now. Spending time with staff, volunteers, and board members of Camp To Belong felt like traveling back in time to a point in my career when nothing seemed more important than the children and youth with whom I connected. It’s not that they don’t continue to be important to me, but I’ve been separated from that direct contact for some time. And I had nearly forgotten the feeling of being part of a community that dedicates so much of themselves to a cause.
Colleagues have suggested this before and this past week I came to truly understand and feel the wisdom of this…all of us in child welfare should periodically play musical chairs in our professional lives, switching roles to keep or perspectives ‘fresh’ and ‘current’. I can imagine how the passion would radiate on Capitol Hill if advocates had just arrived after spending a week with siblings who see each other only a few times a year. Or think of the researchers contemplating what the focus of their next study should be; where there is the greatest need for understanding of the issues and outcomes. And what a difference there might be if administrators could see the results of their policy decisions in the lives of children. Or better yet, imagine how legislators would prioritize resources if they routinely mingled with foster youth and those that support them!
In closing, my wish is that everyone in child welfare have the opportunity to connect and experience first-hand the incredible energy of people so dedicated to children, youth, and families. If you have not experienced this kind of ‘shot in the arm’ within the last year, I would suggest you spend some time volunteering with a Camp To Belong program. Or if you don’t see this as an option, think about the dozens of other ways to get involved through volunteering, donating, fostering/adopting or advocating for kids in the foster care system!