I often say that no one takes a job in child welfare to get rich, but that’s not entirely true. These jobs make you a different and better kind of rich. It comes from knowing that you make a positive difference in people’s lives.
Child-welfare partners from across the state gathered this week in Orlando to remember and reaffirm the reasons we chose this profession, to recharge our batteries for another year of success, and unfortunately, heartbreak. The children who were collectively known to our system of care and have tragically lost their lives weigh heavily on each of us. They remind us of our challenge, responsibility, commitment and promise. One of my first big challenges as secretary is to work together with our partners to examine our agency and practices and move forward doing a better job for the people we serve. In that spirit, for the past four weeks, I’ve listened to ideas and concerns from our partners across the state. I’ve heard many talk of the need for change and I agree that change is good. We must all be willing to evolve, or we will fail those who are counting on us the most.
While no one can achieve perfection, in the field of child welfare we must strive for it. The consequences of our actions and judgments affect the well-being, health and sometimes the lives of our children and families. So what are we doing in our pursuit of perfection?
• Giving our frontline workers the tools to help inform their decisions to reach better conclusions.
• Seeking input from all of our stakeholders, our communities and the national child welfare experts to make sure we are using evidence-based best practices.
• Partnering with Casey Family Programs, national experts, to review our processes.
But we cannot do it alone. Our communities and partnerships are what will bring stability and strength. Checks and balances, collaboration, questioning and accountability make our system better. We should join hands and take responsibility for our successes and our failures as a team.
The ultimate truth is that nothing takes the place of our common sense and critical thinking or of doing our job by making individual decisions that are the right thing for our children and our families. We have to be willing to challenge each other and listen to alternate points of view.
My goal at the 2013 Child Protection Summit is to leave our workforce and partners with a renewed understanding of the importance of every decision we make and every action we take. In this line of work, we are faced daily with terrible situations, but we must never take a tragedy in stride or become complacent. The children and families we serve are counting on us to be diligent and committed to helping them through their challenges.
Esther Jacobo, interim secretary, Department of Children & Families, Miami