Over the holidays I had a chance to sit in on a weekly status meeting of the Governor’s C.A.R.E. committee and checked out their “Command Center”. It was an impressive group of folks from law enforcement, attorney’s, legislators, former legislators, other government agencies and of course, the Director assigned by the governor. There was a lot of energy and passion in the room for the task at hand and their commitment was obvious. It was a positive meeting.
But I also noticed that something was missing. There was no representation from the foster and adoption community around the table. I am constantly amazed that all these folks believe they can create meaningful reform with the folks that actually work on the front lines every day taking daily care of the State’s most vulnerable children.
To me, it’s akin to Proctor & Gamble, who makes Tide detergent never asking Walmart what they think about selling more detergent. Of course, Proctor and Gamble knows that the consumer buys and consumes their products but do you think they don’t ever talk to Walmart how to do a better job at doing so? Of course they do, it’s the right thing to do. In fact, a few years ago when Walmart went to Proctor inquiring about how to make more space on the shelf and together they came up with the idea of concentrated detergents. That is the product we buy today and proof that collaboration can mean improved outcomes!
Sure, The C.A.R.E. committee did a survey of current foster parents but they learned the same things they already knew from previous surveys that AZAFAP had done, including one with ASU, and had provided to them. When policy and decisions are being made in coming months, CPS, legislators and everyone involved in policy and changes need to have foster and adoptive parents at the table.
This is exemplified when I was touring the Command Center. It was an impressive tracking of every case, the status and where it was assigned. When we went to the work area for the command center, folks were working hard on the phones making sure people had the information they needed to follow up on cases. This was during the holidays when it would be understandable that they were slowing down. They were not. It was intense and I could feel it.
But then I asked the question about the disposition on each of the cases. The team pointed out that the goal was to get “eyes on the child” for safety. While I appreciated the focus, I asked how they were tracking the outcome for each case. At the end of the day, foster and adoptive parents know that it’s not just about safety. It’s about caring for the whole child and that includes, health, behavior health, education and much more. But this was not the role of the C.A.R.E. committee. But should it not be? Why let these kids fall back in the cracks of the ineffective system we have today? If they were important when they numbered 6,600, they should be important enough to close the loop on caring for them.
Arizona needs to have a child welfare system that looks at the best interest of the child. It can’t be about numbers on a wall or the adults who work in the system. Until everyone in the system starts to think like a foster or adoptive parent (or any parent for that matter) and thinks about how each and every child can thrive, we will fall short. Kids deserve a system that thinks that way.
So foster and adoptive parents, make your opinions known! Write to your legislator, write letters to the editor at the newspaper or even add your comments to this blog. Get involved. We have a small window to change the system! Let’s do this!