Last week, the team at Prevent Child Abuse Arizona held a meeting that had one purpose: to celebrate the successes we had in 2020. It was a tough year, and though there is value in noodling through our challenges, disappointments, or failures, this was not the time for that. At this meeting, we digested the good so it could fuel our future.
I recommend this practice to any team. It was an especially motivating way to start the year. It also affirmed what had been most meaningful for the members of our team.
One thing that stood out to me was the gratitude expressed by our team members who are parents. This year, we permitted our team to be flexible with where and when they worked and encouraged them to communicate when they needed extra support. One person said that this flexibility made all the difference – she couldn’t have gotten through this year without it.
I don’t need to tell you that this year has been hard for parents, especially those with young children. The competing, multiple demands have been intense, and they haven’t let up.
It was really easy to give them that flexibility, honestly. All it required was a desire to be supportive and trust – trust that they would get their work done, and trust that they would communicate when they needed support.
Over the past year, I heard these two quotes:
“The best way to get trust is to give trust.”
“We can only move at the speed of trust.”
These statements struck me as deeply relevant to how we do our work. Our sector wants safety and well-being for children. And to do that, we know we need to support their parents/caregivers to protect and nurture them. And to support parents, we need to give them trust. Have you ever felt supported without being trusted? Not me.
But trusting parents isn’t the default mainstream lens- yet. Our lens, historically, has been to surveille so we can spot problems. A lens of surveillance, however, is the opposite of trust. Instead, a lens of strength- in which we assume that parents want to do their best and are trying their best in their given circumstance– changes everything. It shifts the culture of surveillance to a culture of trust.
I know it’s hard to trust parents when we hear stories of – or see firsthand – children experiencing adversity. It takes fortitude to keep yourself from defaulting to distrust. Remember that by offering trust first, you are shifting our culture to a culture of support. And a culture of support gets more families the help they need. And that prevents abuse and neglect from ever happening in the first place.