by Executive Director Claire Louge

This month, I’m celebrating ten years with Prevent Child Abuse Arizona. To mark the moment, I’d like to share ten reflections from my past decade in this work:

 

1. Prevention is an act of faith. The everyday work of child abuse prevention doesn’t often bear immediate, tangible fruit. It’s planting seeds for trees that we may never get to climb or rest under. It’s worth doing anyway, even if we personally don’t directly benefit from it.

 

2. Understanding is evolving. In a good way. This may be a rare thing to say nowadays, but I think mindsets are shifting for the better, at least in our work. In the past ten years, we have seen an evolution in the understanding of what it means to actually prevent child abuse and neglect. Whereas many of us, myself included, used to focus on reporting maltreatment and improving foster care as the solution to child abuse, we’re now thinking differently. We’re running upstream, even though that sometimes feels a lot like running uphill. We’re focusing on getting families what they need, when they need it.

 

3. Being a parent is hard. And parenting is the most influential job in the shaping of our collective future. That’s why we need to do everything we can to support the needs of families.

 

4. System bias exists. More of us are aware of the biases that were baked into systems when they were designed, and the tragic impacts those biases have on groups of people. It’s up to us to redesign those systems to promote equity.

 

5. This work requires constant self-reflection. Human beings all have biases that are formed based on their past experiences, and because of that, we need to constantly think about our own thinking. Our thinking creates our behaviors, our practices, our policies, and our systems. If we don’t examine our thinking, we can become the creators of the outcomes that our prejudice predicts.

 

6. The job is never done. And it will never be done. The work of creating a society where all parents are supported to be able to nurture their children is a lot. It will take people like you and me to harness their passion and energy in the ways that we can, and to inspire others to take up the movement when we can no longer do it. We’re in it for the long haul. That’s why we need to take breaks when we can.

 

7. The most important leadership qualities are humility and curiosity. A lot of our work involves learning and unlearning, and that takes steadfast humility and persistent curiosity. It requires being wrong. It’s knowing, knowing better, and doing better. It’s examining systems and practices and taking a hard look at what we’re doing, how we’re doing, and if our actions are aligned with what we value.

 

8. Policy matters. Some of us may be averse to advocacy or bristle at anything that steers into politics, but getting involved in the process of law and policy-making is usually where we can make the biggest, broadest change for families and kids. Policy change takes many, many small actions from many, many people. Take action when you can. Please vote and encourage people to vote.

 

9. Our mission matters to everything that matters. When we work to prevent child maltreatment and adversity, we’re impacting so much more than the lives of individual children. Preventing abuse means we’re strengthening families, and when families are strong, everything flourishes – educational outcomes, economic outcomes, health outcomes, world outcomes. Throwing our energy in child abuse prevention is energy well-spent.

 

10. The best part of the work is the people. This may seem heretical coming from a leader of a mission-driven organization, but the very best part of this work is not the work. It’s the people I get to work with.

 

It’s the people I get to meet at the events and trainings we produce. It’s the collaborators from our partner organizations. And it’s especially the team of remarkable, brilliant leaders at Prevent Child Abuse Arizona. There isn’t a day that goes by in which I am not inspired by someone I meet through this work.

Our sector is full of diverse, courageous, passionate people who have chosen to spend a big chunk of their waking hours caring about children and families. I can’t think of anything more meaningful than conspiring with brilliant people to do something that generates less adversity and more wellbeing, and that contributes to something bigger than any or all of us. It’s not always easy, or linear, or fun.

But it’s always fascinating and meaningful. Even after the sixth Zoom meeting of the day. Even when there’s too much to do and never enough time or resources. Even when the world is on fire, literally or figuratively. Co-creating with people who give a damn about families and children is the most meaningful thing I can think of doing.

Thanks for being one of those people.