Children's Voice July/August 2008

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Leadership Lens

Christine James-Brown

Although there is often one overall theme for each issue of the Voice, the underlying themes in this--and frankly, almost every--issue are responsibility, accountability, and complexity. These are topics that all of us in the child welfare field deal with on a regular basis. They are the underlying themes of the FLDS situation in Texas this spring and of almost every high profile child welfare case, but they are also the issues that every caseworker and child welfare agency deals with on a smaller scale every day. The issues are very apparent when more than 400 children are removed from their homes at one time, but not as apparent (though just as important) when more than 40 children are removed each day in the state of Texas.

So these themes of responsibility, accountability, and complexity are something we must grapple with as we read each issue of the Voice. More importantly, they are issues that must be understood every day as we work to secure safety, well-being, and permanence for all children in this rapidly changing world. Just looking at the articles in this issue prompts questions about who is ultimately responsible for our children. Should youth have to advocate for themselves to find adoptive homes (as in "Teens Taking Charge")? Should parents or the child welfare system be held responsible for making sure that children aren't overweight (see "Childhood Obesity: Is it Abuse")?

It often seems, especially in the middle of high-profile cases, that the child welfare system--or even the individual caseworker--is viewed as responsible for maneuvering through very complex situations to find the appropriate balance between child safety, well-being, and permanency. Ultimately, we share responsibility for making sure that every child in this nation is happy, healthy, and able to reach his or her potential. This "we" includes parents, families, communities, the child welfare system as a whole, and individual child welfare professionals. Each of us is accountable for our specific role. Shared responsibility without clear accountability, however, is not enough; no one person can achieve our desired objectives without the support of others.

As families and society become increasingly complex, it will be even more important to have clear accountability. Our member agencies, parents and families, communities, and youth each have their own set of interdependent accountabilities. Going into the next several years, CWLA will be accountable for raising the level of awareness in the United States about the needs of vulnerable children and youth, supporting the development of policies that provide adequate resources for children and families and make child welfare a desired profession, giving workers the ability to do their jobs effectively, and facilitating the sharing and adoption of practices that achieve better outcomes for children, youth, and families. I hope you'll join me in continuing to do your part--at work and in your community--to reach these goals together.

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