FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

These guiding beliefs were priorities we identified that reflected our intentions for engagement with the community, whom we approached with humility, attempting to honor what had been done and what was already being done. I’m so fortunate to work alongside Dr. Ira Lourie, an innovative leader in mental health who, along with Karl Dennis, helped pave the way before I was born for what is most commonly today called “Wraparound”. As child welfare professionals acknowledge the many failings of the current structure of child welfare in America and explore the appropriate next steps in how to support families more competently, we must start with a fundamental question: What if this was my child? What if it was my family? We’d do whatever it takes, and it’s not likely you would access the kinds of services typically offered by the government or many providers in your time of need, and you certainly wouldn’t point your friends in that direction. Lourie explained, “Your own children and the children you serve both deserve an unconditional commitment. The parents who are reading [this] know this but the service people need to understand that only with unconditional care will the children and families who rely on you feel comfortable enough to grow under your care.” 7 Unfortunately, Wraparound is a word used by a lot of people who are not doing Wraparound as it was designed, but fortunately our family services efforts have passed his litmus test. Dennis elaborated, “When we think about Wraparound, it is imperative to understand that it is not a program. A program suggests something that has specific interventions and approaches. Instead, Wraparound should be viewed as a process. A process suggests something fluid with ever-changing interventions as need be. In order to make sure we don’t fall into “program thinking” within Wraparound. I always talk about environments as opposed to programs. ______________ 7 Dennis, Karl W., and Ira S. Lourie. “The First Family I Provided Care To.” Everything Is Normal until Proven Otherwise: A Book about Wraparound Services , CWLA Press, 2006, 171.

how effective we were at times in providing a healing community on our campus, it wasn’t home, and one day many of the kids with us were going to return to some of the challenging circumstances that brought them to us in the first place. Our concern was not only that we couldn’t replicate the continuity of support for the child after their departure, but that there were so many stories being shared on a daily basis from many kids that reflected if earlier intervention had been offered to their family, they would never have arrived at our facility with nowhere else to go. Once we learned about new and innovative ways that others were pursuing to help kids and families more effectively, it was a moral imperative to respond. It also struck a chord with the inherent idealism that many use to select social work as a career. We made a series of transformative decisions that were not easy for the organization, but they were in the best interest of kids and families. We began a slow and thoughtful process of closing down all of our residential services over several years, changed our name to reflect a focus on family and community services, and began picking up all the resources that previously existed in a centralized campus environment, and invested them in the heart of neighborhoods and schools. The journey to transformation was so difficult that if we didn’t believe in the importance of upstream work, if it didn’t have personal meaning and ownership, it would have most certainly failed. It wasn’t immediately apparent how to even pursue prevention services, but we believed in the idea and had the opportunity to study many other programs thanks to the generosity of a national foundation in Casey Family Programs and seed funding from a local foundation. We approached the undertaking by clarifying our values through our five unconditional care core tenets: 1) Whatever it Takes – What if it was my child? 2) Better Together – Collective Impact 3) Relationships Matter – Survival through Belonging 4) Having Fun is Priority – Celebrate 5) Everyone has Strengths – Seek them and build on them.

FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022 | 97

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