6th Annual Leadership Dialogue

Dozens of business leaders, Agency partners, community members and politicians gathered at the D!G (Design Innovation Garage) on Thursday, June 5, 2014 for Child & Family Services’ 6th Annual Leadership Dialogue.  A facilitated dialogue, led by Michael Cardus, was presented to discuss a topic so prevalent in today’s society: “how do we protect the most vulnerable members of our community – our children?” Different group discussions were held from a variety of perspectives on whose responsibility it is to protect children in our community; these audiences included:  Citizens, Lawmakers, Community Institutions, “The System” and Parents.  Attendees looked at this critical issue from those perspectives and participated in the facilitated discussion. Please read the emerging themes that evolved from the 6th Annual Leadership Dialogue.

Emerging Themes Broken Down by Target Audience

• Each citizen should take responsibility for the well-being and safety of all children and intervene when they see a situation where a child is at risk. 
• In order to achieve this goal, there are proactive steps that can be taken including: getting to know your neighbors, education on conflict resolution and actually taking the steps when a case of abuse is witnessed. 
• However, we live in a culture of fear where it is easier to look the other way and expect someone or something else to deal with the issue. 
• Part of these fears include: retaliation, putting the child further in harm’s way, and loss of personal privacy.
• Media plays a role in the fear citizens feel by desensitizing the community and making people feel powerless to make a difference. 

• The overall consensus is that the legislative system is broken and is looked upon with cynicism and mistrust. 
• The focus must shift from individual agendas (re-election) to a focus on the greater good of the communities being served. 
• Lawmakers, beginning with the Governor, must make this issue and children a priority and start at the grassroots level. 
• Changes are needed throughout all levels of government including: evaluations of staffing, training, and compensation in an effort to get ahead of the work instead of constantly playing catch up where lives are lost and/or forever altered. 

Community Institutions
• It is important to educate and engage all community members, institutions or businesses to know what resources are available, particularly for parents, and how to access them when it comes to dealing with issues of abuse. 
• Understanding there is a problem is simply not enough and institutions must be aware of the issues brought about by cultural differences, seek collaboration among other groups and with parents and make better use of the funding they receive. 
• There must be a strong and pronounced shift within communities and individuals that abuse will no longer be tolerated under any circumstance and intervention should become the expectation.

“The System”
• The two groups that discussed the Target Audience “The System” came up with very different ideas.  The one common theme was that there is insufficient funding for CPS and other agencies dedicated to protecting children.
• A much stronger and more focused emphasis needs to be placed on protecting our children.
• It is a politically unpopular topic that leads to finger pointing and blaming others for a lack of results and response. 

• Parents and caregivers must be made to feel valued and given the essential tools in an easily accessible manner to perform this most important job, raising children to be safe, healthy, happy, productive adults. 
• Parents must take the responsibility to raise and guide their children actively (listen, have conversations, know their friends and where they are, know their teachers, learn the technology they use daily) and be involved in their lives. 
• There must be ways to break the cycle of abuse and to deal with the stigma attached to abuse.
• Abuse is a complex issue with different needs for intervention and help.
• There is believed to be a fear from parents of the system involved.

Overall Emerging Themes

• Children must become a priority for all the Target Audiences to alleviate the obstacles that prevent our community members from doing the right thing.
• There is an overwhelming reaction to look the other way and expect someone else to handle the issue.