Welcome to All Faiths’ blog – and welcome to our new website.
We are launching our new site in the midst of the greatest child welfare crisis the state has seen. It seems as though our communities are stumbling through chaos, from one abuse case to the next horrific neglected child – outraged as a society yet unable to effectively respond to the level of need.
Articles published, experts interviewed, and people on the street point fingers to one or another entity in the system – one blames a behavioral health provider while another may hold the Children Youth and Families Department responsible for New Mexico’s position on the child welfare scale – 49th or 50th in the nation.
If resolving the issue was as easy as identifying a single cause, such as finding a new leader for CYFD or closing a particular agency, we would have done so long ago – but we all know it’s not that simple. The children who show up in these cases come from troubled backgrounds, with lives in a crisis that is complex and caused not by one but by a multitude of stress factors.
At All Faiths, as do many modern behavioral health agencies, we measure the ACE scores of those who enter our services. ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences – a simple, ten-question test that starts with the line “while you were growing up, during the first 18 years of life have you experienced the following in your household” … and that is followed by a list of yes or no questions that include incarceration, hunger, sexual and emotional abuse, homelessness and so forth. It seems like a simple little test yet each answer reveals a multitude of other problems.
The children who come to us often have 4 to 5 “yes” answers that their undeveloped brains are trying to sort through, normalize and survive – but as an additional problem, they come from dysfunctional households that are unable to resolve the effects of intergenerational poverty, where parents are drug addicted, homeless, incarcerated and so forth.
It is easy to see that no child who enters our care is going to heal from the effects of these traumatizing events on their own – clearly, the family unit will need help or, I would go as far as to say, neighborhoods and communities need help.
No agency is equipped to deal with the multitude of these problems on their own. In the U.S. we have built a social system that’s fragmented. Much of the systemic response is provided by not-for-profit organizations that are chronically underfunded, starved of innovation and – often like the clients they represent – scrambling for survival.
As a society, we ask these non-profits to resolve overarching issues, many of which began decades and generations ago and have various roots. It is no wonder that the outcomes are often not favorable and that children are hurt along the way.
I don’t have a single answer to what works – but I do believe that we can do more than to keep repeating what we’ve already done. For one, all of us can demand better funding, better oversight and engage in the dialogue on solutions.
There are specific programs – and All Faiths offers one – that address problems in a comprehensive way so that outcomes can be positive in the short term and extend to future generations. These programs build on the strengths of its participants, help them find footing in the community and slowly pull together the clients’ lives so that they can stand on their own.
Our Family Wellness program rallies a team of professionals around a kid and their family in crisis to help them deal with the trauma, address the setbacks, help them connect with other services, enable them — and finally, implant positive behaviors that will pay off in the long run.
Get engaged – not outraged.