By Claire Louge, Executive Director
Compassion and accountability are sometimes seen as opposing concepts.
We have compassion for families who are struggling and overwhelmed. But when abuse and neglect happen, we want to hold people accountable for harming children.
Is it possible to be both compassionate and hold people accountable? I think it’s not only possible, but necessary in creating the world we want.
Compassion without accountability ignores the power of choice. Accountability without compassion ignores the power of circumstance. Compassionate accountability is recognizing that circumstances shape our choices.
You and I both know that behavior doesn’t happen randomly. Behavior is shaped by our conditions: our past experiences and the circumstances we are in. Child abuse and neglect are behaviors that are born of conditions. When we understand this and that we, as active members of this society, have a part in changing conditions that incubate child abuse, we realize that we can prevent child abuse.
Prevention, therefore, is about compassionate accountability. It’s holding each of us accountable for protecting children. It’s holding parents accountable. It’s holding the government accountable. It’s holding you and me and your neighbors and everyone accountable. We can change the conditions, and so we are accountable.
We can make the resources families need to be safe, well, and together more accessible. We can make finding resources easier.
We can encourage people to access those resources. We can make it normal to ask for help. We can ask for help when we want it to demonstrate that asking for help is normal.
We can offer coaching for parents who want tools to help them be the parents they want to be. We can ask for their perspective and allow them to teach us.
We can recognize the power of connecting people to each other. Who we connect to is a central part of our life circumstances. Connected, we thrive.
What conditions are we creating or letting happen that affect people’s behaviors? Let’s do what we can to create conditions that help people thrive.
Because this isn’t about choosing compassion or accountability. It’s about choosing compassion and accountability. It’s about having compassion for people – for children, for parents, for people working to help children, and for people working to help parents, and for ourselves, as we try our best every day to survive, thrive, have purpose, and belong. It’s also about accountability – not accepting behaviors that harm people, and working to change the things that we know lead to those behaviors.
We all have a part in creating the conditions that lead to people’s behaviors. And when we recognize that, and change the conditions we know lead to harm into conditions that we know lead to thriving, that’s prevention. That, we can do.