significant work to frame our initial neighborhood efforts in a very accessible and positive manner. Because we are a universal and voluntary service that is locally focused, accountable, and discrete, families can connect with us without the same stigma of more acute services. The more we demonstrate our commitment to shared values with those referred, the deeper the trust. The relationship is a delicate process of safety and trust; the deeper the connection, the more complex issues families are willing to collaborate on. We are held accountable by their engagement, not the other way around. Schools Focus on building relationships and emotional intelligence through a family, school, and community partnership, providing equitable access to opportunities so children are ready to learn and positioned to succeed. Supported through local school system enrichment funding, the primary effort being free afterschool programming and health promotion. In our process of creating a local community advisory board, a lot of concerns were brought to us about unsupervised children at-risk after school hours. Additionally, the barriers for families from transportation, work hours, financial limitations, and other poverty- connected issues. We took that feedback and used it as a case for support to create a free and attractive afterschool program and created a funnel of resources based on the stated needs of the local school staff. We removed the barriers; instead of creating a service in our facility, we put it where the families already were residing. The work in the school also had another impact; we were trusted and known in a non-stigmatizing capacity providing fun and desirable programming that everyone wanted to be a part of. As word traveled that we could also provide voluntary family services, we had already had the time to build meaningful relationships with the family. A local community response to support families will look different everywhere you go; each community has its own unique ecosystem of needs and strengths to work through. While some communities look to a center-based approach, our focus is less on a multi-purpose facility that houses a variety of human services
partners, and more of a recognition that there are a great deal of spaces where people already congregate where we need to be present. Social work doctrine says, ‘meet people where they are’. The 21st-century settlement house is the community itself with embedded partners and providers with shared beliefs, working daily in schools, churches, neighborhoods, and in the living rooms of families. This overarching structure falls in line with Ecological Systems Theory, explained by Urie Bronfenbrenner, as the relationship between the individual and all of the key spheres of influence, including family, school, neighborhood, and beyond. Bronfenbrenner references Goethe by saying, “Of our attempts to understand the world ‘Everything has been thought of before, The difficulty is to think of it again.’ To this I would add… that ideas are only as important as what you can do with them.” 9 How much of the research we currently pursue is ultimately translated into timely practice? How many of the evidence-based practices we promote are scalable and accessible to the masses? How much time are we spending on the simple things that families are asking us to provide? There is nothing new or unique about the buckets of work we are pursuing; it’s all been done before by others across the United States who, along with local families, have graciously shown us the way. There is something special about the local formula of integration, the shared commitment to values, and the characteristics of the neighborhood and families. It works together, so it works. Dreams It’s a tough time to be a social worker, a police officer, a teacher, and a healthcare professional, among other front-line roles. Being essential doesn’t mean you’re impervious to all of the negativity you hear, and if you’re passionate about your work, the burden of trying to be the stop gap in a system with many cracks often leads to resentment or burnout. It’s often referenced that in the Chinese language, the word for crisis is composed of two characters: one for danger and one for ______________ 9 Bronfenbrenner, Urie. The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design , Harvard University Press, 1981, vii.
FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022 | 99
Powered by FlippingBook