Getting from not enough to more than enough in your community will require moving from foster care activity to foster care movement.
Foster care activity is not a bad thing. In fact, it is responsible for many children being protected and families being restored. However, it is not sufficient. What’s needed in your community (and every community) is foster care movement. Let us show you five key differences between foster care activity and movement:
Organizations and agencies (private and government) are each doing good work largely according to their own internal quarterly and annual goals. When work is dissimilar between organizations, coordination of services sometimes takes place. In places where work is similar between organizations, competition for families, funding, government contracts and community partnerships (ie churches) occurs. Because regular communication between organizations is limited, duplication of effort is common.
Programming is generally determined by the most pressing visible needs and those needs are addressed by tactics including campaigns, drives, and events. The goal of each of those tactics is to help as many as possible (which is good) but a compelling overall vision of a preferred future reality is missing. The result is the feeling that we are simply going from one strategy to the next without a clear idea of where we plan to end up.
Over time, the tendency to simply tweak current efforts becomes the norm. It feels very risky to try something completely different that we’ve never done before. What if it doesn’t work? Worse yet, what if we get in a huge amount of trouble for doing it? You will very often hear people in these settings use the phrase “Let’s think outside the box.” The biggest problem with that phrase is that if you are in the box, it is very VERY difficult to think outside of it.
Because agencies and organizations have put the resources into creating infrastructure, growing expertise, and developing programs, it seems only natural that they should lead the way in a community effort. The problem is that everyone else in the community will only ever feel like they are being recruited to help that agency or organization achieve its goals. Often these organizations seem more interested in the pastor using his congregation to accomplish the organizational goals than the organization using their expertise to help the pastor achieve their congregation’s vision in the community.
Without a vision for a preferred future reality, the default goal simply becomes “more”. We work for more resources, more families, more support. That means that we are simply trying to do better this quarter than we did last quarter. While there is nothing inherently wrong with doing “more, better, faster” it becomes a counterfeit replacement goal for the real goal which is to “solve the problem.”
Organizations, agencies, and churches recognize that all the resources to solve the problem within the community already exist. It then becomes a matter of strategically figuring out who is good at what, where the holes are and where duplication of effort can be stopped so that those resources can be redirected to fill in the holes. This kind of collaboration cannot be accomplished without relationship, relationship cannot be built without trust, and trust cannot be built without spending time together on a regular basis.
While tactics play an important role, ultimately foster care movement in a community is driven by a compelling vision towards something that is both difficult and doable. This vision provides a preferred future that everyone in the community comes to take on as their own. The visions that drive current movements are often defined by a numerical goal, geography and a deadline. Remember, tactics always serve vision.
Participants in a movement recognize that achieving a preferred future requires big change often suggested by outside perspectives. In places where movement has been successful, training schedules have been overhauled, staffing changes occur, orientation meetings have been permanently relocated and the way services are rendered is completely reconsidered.
Agencies and organizations reposition themselves from being “leaders” to being “guides”. They move from being Luke Skywalker to being Yoda. Their wisdom and experience is absolutely vital to success but they recognize it is going to take new blood to put legs on a vision. They step back, set logos and egos aside, and position local churches as the leaders of the movement. Churches are MUCH more likely to join with a coalition of other churches trying to transform a community than they are to sign up for a new recruitment program that an agency just launched.
The goal of “more” is traded in for the goal of “more than enough.” This shift acknowledges what is true but what our “realism” gave up on a long time ago: That EVERY child deserves safety and permanency. It reminds the community that this is not currently true but absolutely could be. Simply getting “more” leaves children without the things they deserve. “More than enough” ensures that every child is cared for.