FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

we do it under the table. I never ever want the kids to feel like they are a paycheck. They have been there already. When I was an addict, I learned how to do what I had to do to get by, and that is what the system is telling us we have to do. It feels like we’re being punished for loving our grandchildren . As long as I have breath, my promise to them is that we’ll never be homeless, and we’ll have a warm plate on the table. We took on a responsibility taking care of our grandkids, and we’re going to fulfill it. At the end of the day, the hug they give me [emotional pause] and my belief in God have gotten me through. I have to always be honest with my grandkids; one night one of my grandsons asked me, ‘How come God loves you and not mom who’s doing drugs?’ I didn’t know how to answer it, so I had to pick up the phone and call our pastor and get those kids in with him right away.” What does improving the system look like? M: “Partnering with people who want to work on things for the betterment of all, not just bitch and complain. What if when there's a problem at the State, the department sent out a generalized letter and said we’re having this particular issue, and let’s work together to fix it? The system is old, it was designed for a different world. Everything is somewhere else instead of right where you are at. A lot of things don’t happen during office hours. Where is a resource for these incidents? How do we work as a group of people to give people what they need?” M: "Basically, families should have what I have now at Bester Community of Hope. It’s about a support system . It’s not all bad stuff. It seems like we’re in a world that doesn’t care about us. If we have a family struggling, we have too many people in the community, like seniors, for example, that could help these children and families understand: they matter. We need places to flourish. We’re in a world where everything is shady, and it’s not fair, but until we die, we’re here. I see so many people give up on themselves. It does take a village. A lot of these things we do now, cookouts and get-togethers, you don’t understand the impact of being around others in joy. Bringing people together shows likeness, which leads to working together. The system is cold and what we need is warmth.”

M: “We need a lot of little systems . Everyone is getting over on the big system, and a lot of those that are really doing what needs to be done aren’t getting what they need. These things that happen that became a crisis, is not because it wasn’t one before, but it’s now effecting other people that never expected for it to impact. They never thought it would go that far. It’s like when they patch holes in the road, and it is messed up quickly again. Sometimes you really just need to rip up the road and do it over.” M: “When I was a kid, the village worked together. It makes me mad during the election season; whenever we blame the government, somewhere, we forgot that, "we are the people"! I recently went through an online program and graduated from college to work in peer recovery and recently, my husband and I just said, ‘look, [our grandsons are teenagers], and the kids; they’re going to stay with us until they are grown, and that’s that. It’s just not about us anymore.” As we implore the beliefs of practice-based evidence and build from the lived experiences of the people we serve, there is certainly a place for science when used in the appropriate proportion and context. It’s not that there is never a time for specialized services; it’s that we’re way out of equilibrium in the amount of time that goes to the emergency instead of addressing the root cause. As the research community works to quantify data to communicate the challenges faced by families, time remains the biggest factor. There is value in understanding trends and population-level data, but we must balance the quantitative data with stories, understanding that every situation is unique. It won’t necessarily fit into a box for replication, it’s specific to the individual, and that is how we should approach them. It’s about their way, not our way. We need to balance our quest for data with a desire for more wisdom. Back to Basics The reality is that those solutions are hard for child welfare to pursue in isolation, and in general for that matter, so it requires a cross-sector response which is why we will

FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022 | 95

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