You work in a department whose whole purpose is to deal with us… the problems.
Your boss no doubt often reminds you that you are working with a limited budget – as we all are, and then you pick up the phone, or open your email, and there WE are… there I am.
Telling you that you must address my concerns. Reminding you that our country gives rights to my children and that you are charged with ensuring those rights are met. Begging you to listen, to help because I am at breaking point… again.
And you work in an office where everyone is in the same situation. You are all dealing, day in, day out, with a problem: children who cannot get through childhood without a great deal of extra help.
I like to think that you arrived in this office glowing with hope and ambition to make the world a better place. You might even have known a child like one of mine, you might have seen the difference a good decision can make, or the destruction a wrong decision wreaks. I like to think that you come to work each day hoping to make a family like mine breathe just a little easier.
But day after day, you come to work and you deal with the problems. And there are simply too many of us, aren’t there? That limited budget combined with systems and processes old as time forces you and I to be on different and opposing teams. I have become the person who will steal some of that tiny budget you have, and you have come to think you must protect that budget at all costs. You have become the next hurdle in my quest to help my child be safe and grow.
I’ve been thinking that you see too little success, because you do not truly understand the nature of failure and success for children and families such as mine. How hard it must be to go into work each day, be ground down from above and pulled down from below, and in the end feel that any difference you can make is insignificant.
Let me tell you the picture I hope for…
In my picture, we talk, you and I, as equals. We put my child’s photograph on the table, and we talk about the achievements I have seen that week, that month, that year. We can do that, because we both know the problems he or she faces, and we both acknowledge them. If there are no achievements to talk about, that right there tells us that there is something we must change.
In my picture, you listen to me because I am an expert. I have raised this child since he or she was born, and I have navigated the challenges he or she faces from the beginning. In my desperation and heartbreak, I have learned to research, to ask questions, to learn and learn, and learn again. I have learned the facts, but I have also learned to communicate them to you, to doctors, to teachers, to social workers. I am an expert because I am my child’s voice. I am an expert because I am emotionally invested. I am fiercely protective of this child because he or she is far more vulnerable than others of his or her age. I am fiercely protective of him or her because without that fierce protection, he or she cannot survive. And in my picture, you know that this fierce protection is far from a problem… it is a strength, and it makes me your best partner. Because I am an expert, you know that if I am anxious, there is cause and so you listen.
In my picture, I listen to you when you talk about budget. Because in my picture, you teach me how much each service costs. You tell me what each pound will buy, and you tell me what money you have available. And in my picture we whittle down what is needed and what money is available and we find a solution. Remember, I work with a budget every day… I do not work because I cannot work… because my children’s needs are such that it is impossible. So I know what a budget is, and I know all too well that you also have a budget.
In my picture we talk about the big picture… how will our decisions impact on this child’s life as a whole? If we can agree to “x” help for five years, will this child be able to live independently? If so, this saves untold amounts of money in benefits and care for a whole life. And for some of these children, the reality is that their contributions to our economy and tax system will allow you to care for those children who will need life long care…
In my picture, you listen to me because you know that my drive to find the right solution is greater than yours- that means I do your homework!!!
I know I am your problem. And I know that there are many of us, and that your work must seem like an insurmountable mountain. But I believe strongly that if we listen to each other, if we talk…we can work together, with respect and kindness, and find the way to help these children in such a way that they cease being simply a problem.