Is There a Different Way to Look at Parents and Kids?

It can be easy to demonize the parents, and sometimes even the children, in delinquency and CHINS cases.  How could they do so poorly as parents to allow their children to end up in the system?  How can the child keep making these same horrible choices?  We focus on all that they are lacking.  That is the judgmental view with which many of us struggle.

The essay Changing Narrative of Child Welfare, by Matthew I Fraidin, proposes ways to change the focus to strengths and viewing the child and parents as experts in their own story.  For instance:

“So instead of knowing the answers, we can ask questions.  A lawyer [or probation officer, or DCS worker, etc.] can ask a parent or a child, “Who are you?  What do you do?  Who do you love? What was your greatest success?  What is your dream?  What is your favorite food?  What’s the most frivolous thing about you?  What makes you laugh?””

“As it happens, it’s much more fun…if your goal is to make a difference.  If your goal is to make a difference, you’ll have to learn, instead of know.  You’ll have to listen instead of tell.  You can ask instead of declaim.  You’ll get to know the dozens or hundreds of people you’ll come across, rather than spend your days interacting with the fleshy embodiment of your assumptions.  You’ll hear real people, not a pathologized, stereotyped version of them created by your own preconceived notions.  And instead of hanging out with people whom you despise or, at best, for whom you have compassion, you get to be with a bunch of fascinating people from whom you’re learning and with whom you’re growing….”

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