Communities of Well-Being

After three and a half years, the Sauer Collaborative for Child Well-Being came full circle.  We came together at the Minneapolis Foundation in June of 2014.  We invited a group of professionals from across the child welfare system to come together to work on aligning the system to child well-being.  Over the years, the collaborative members had many meetings, hard conversations, and put in hours of good work to define well-being and transform the system.  On November 16th, we brought the professionals together, again at the Minneapolis Foundation, to wrap up our work so we can all focus on the new and exciting well-being initiatives in the community.

It has been a privilege to listen to the discussions and see light bulbs go on over people’s heads as they learned from each other.  Their willingness to listen to each other and consider a different perspective was a beautiful thing to witness; much needed in our world today.

Over the course of our time together, reports were written that consolidate important information about child well-being from across the country.  These reports will be disseminated where they can be most helpful.  A robust discussion by the Data Team led to a comprehensive document about an incredible potential data system for front-line workers, management, and researchers.  The discussion transformed the group; imagine what it could do for the people who will be using such a system someday!

Our Community Engagement Team will continue down the path of listening sessions with parents and youth from across the state; collecting their opinions and experiences to create a robust definition of well-being.  The Search Institute will lead the work of this dedicated team.  We hope to share what they learn in briefings in the spring of 2018.

More and more child well-being initiatives have begun in the community.  I am proud that the work of this collaborative may have helped create some of that work.  It most certainly has helped people from across the system work together in the best interest of the child.  The child well-being initiatives in the community are an extension of our work together.

As I look ahead, I believe the Sauer Family Foundation will be looking at prevention of abuse and neglect.  I wonder what it would be like to eliminate the need for a child protection system.  Would if stranger foster care didn’t exist, because all children lived with adults they know and trust?  How do we create communities that are able to come together on behalf of their children?  Communities that use collective resources to keep children safe and healthy; the children belong to the community and their needs are met.

Where do we start?  I don’t have the answers.  But I wonder about creating communities that understand enough about trauma and how trauma affects behavior to ask, “What happened to you?” rather than “What’s wrong with you?”  And with that turn in mindset, neighbors and community members help families rather than judge them.   With the love and acceptance that is given in that new question, perhaps the most vulnerable parents would be willing to accept the help they need in the best interest of their children; the most vulnerable of all.