I live in a world full of people with giant hearts. Its true. Everywhere you look in the world of Human Services and Child Advocacy you will find people who have giant hearts. There is really no arguing about that. The issue, as I have found, is that when their giant hearts begin to do tasks that they know are not helping the people they set out to help, what happens then?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “Malpractice” to mean:
A dereliction of professional duty or a failure to exercise an ordinary degree of professional skill or learning by one rendering professional services which results in injury, loss or damage.
An injurious, negligent or improper practice: Malfeasance.
We know that within the child welfare system, and specifically looking at outcomes for those involved in the system, things are bad. More than bad, they are horrendous, and have been for decades. Graduation rates, foster care to prison, addiction, homelessness, just to name a few. . all fed from child welfare.
When will we begin to recognize this as malpractice? As I told someone recently, if a doctor performed surgeries and 80% of the patients died, we would demand that doctor to stop performing those surgeries. There are guidelines in place to prevent this type of blatant malpractice. Why then do we continue to allow child welfare to produce significantly devastating results for our most vulnerable children?
Child welfare is in need of some serious innovation. I for one am beyond ready to begin calling out this malpractice that I see at every level. From the marketing of more foster parents, to the “selling” of children on billboards and television news programs, to the misdirection of politicians and other leaders who will not have a conversation about how unhealed trauma leads to devastating outcomes for humans. As citizens WE must demand that things change.
What does your local commissioner know about foster care in your community? Have you asked for a meeting? What is your community doing to innovate change locally, statewide or nationally? Are you offering the same services you did a decade ago? What services are offered to families to have healing and to overcome the trauma they have endured?
For several years I have tried to “play by the rules.” To be polite and make changes where I thought I could. I have tried to walk a tightrope, never wanting to push to hard in hopes of getting some movement. I have reached a new level of anger and frustration now and I will not sit idly by while children continue to have their lives ruined by people with “well-meaning hearts” that still knowingly commit malpractice.
I know there is a social worker or a foster parent reading this, who might be upset. I’m asking you to join the cause. To stand up and point out the problem, to demand actual change!
You are not alone! It is time to stop trying to tweak our current system, and instead move forward with innovation. Let’s create a whole new system, where children and their needs are valued above all else. Let’s admit that this system is not failing, it is a failure. It doesn’t work and it has never worked.
We know better, so when is it time to do better?
We can - together.
Shenandoah Chefalo is a former foster youth, and advocate. She is the author of the memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase, and a faculty member at the Center for Trauma Resilient Communities. She is committed to making lasting changes to the child welfare system. You can learn more about her and her work at www.garbagebagsuitcase.com