Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Response Regarding Responsibility

I was corresponding with one of our local Community Based Care (CBC) representatives yesterday about the responsibilities the CBCs have in placement decisions. I was particularly upset by one line of one of the emails I received that stated that "The decision to move a child as well as place a child does not always fall on the CBC's decision makers."

The more I thought about that line, the more upset I got. You see, I think it is a common practice for those of us working in dependency to throw our hands up in the air and declare that something is not our fault because the system is too big and there are so many players that we cannot control everything. I strongly disagree with that idea and think that we each have a responsibility to uphold the intent of the system to make life better for the kids in our care by holding every single player to an extremely high standard - including ourselves. I was so upset by this that I ultimately didn't sleep very well again because I kept dreaming about the issue. So when my teething one year old woke me up for the third time at 2 AM, I never really fell back into a sound sleep. So at 4 AM I composed the following response:

The more I thought about your response last night the more it got me thinking. I wanted to say something that's been on my mind for a few years now as I've worked on a lot of these types of issues both at out local level and statewide (and if you want to get truly technical, even at the interstate level).

You said in your email that the decision to move a child as well as place a child does not always fall on the CBC's decision makers, but I think that it actually does. The decisions themselves may not, but the responsibility to ensure that they are done according to best practices and in the best interests of the children does. That means that while the decision makers are not the people manning the placement phone lines and doing the day to day work of moving and placing children, they are the ones who are working on the policy practices, manning the contract management of the various partner agencies working under the auspices of the CBC's contract, and following up with the quality assurance plans that should show compliance with the state's requirements for the adequate treatment of the children and the families who care for them.

We all know that there are five thousand working parts to dependency and that the system is incredibly fluid. As a result, many times there are no true "textbook" cases, but there are human considerations for which to account. The two most recent cases I've brought to your attention do have some similarities to each other despite their being polar opposite examples - the similarities are that the consideration of the impacts to the kids and the families caring for them of actions on the part of placement and/or case management were not adequately addressed. This means that the families who were caring for children were treated with little respect. Because care giving families are not automatons who are simply paid babysitters we should afford them the respect they deserve - even in times of turmoil and quickly changing priorities. If the system wants to be able to treat families without that kind of respect, then my recommendation would be to scrap the foster home model completely and hire part-time babysitter providers who would be available at the drop of a hat, would not work as advocates for the children, and wouldn't mind being treated as "less than" - though I would caution that the expenses associated with that model would be incredibly high - both monetarily and otherwise. No one is advocating for that type of model to be put into place because everyone realizes that a home setting is truly the best setting for kids who come into care - but to keep the current model working at optimal efficiency, we need to make sure that we're being sensitive to the needs of the families in whom we place such trust. It's spelled out very clearly in the Partnership Plan. It's touted at every conference and every QPI call. We need to do everything we can to live what we preach.

My hope is that by providing the examples of cases where the system was not working optimally, we can ferret out the places for improvement and take ownership of the improvement processes. My goal is to help every single family we bring into the system, whether it's a biological family, foster family, relative or non-relative family experience the very best parts of the system without re-traumatizing them any further through poorly implemented or inadequately thought out processes.

I hope you can see where I believe that the CBC's decision makes do have the responsibility to ensure that placement decisions are done properly and with the interests of the folks directly involved (ie the children AND the families) are taken into account - not just the convenience of the transporters and case managers.

Thanks, and I'll chat with you soon, I'm sure!

I haven't gotten a reply yet - but I'm quite certain I've managed to irritate at least one person today (even though that was not my intent - honest!)!

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