Gary Crow Presents Audio Tidbits

Children Are People Too

“Children are one third of our population and all of our future.” -- Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health - 1981

A frequent variation on the theme is, “Children are our most important resource.” This is usually simply asserted as a given, with no further justification or explanation. You have likely heard it so many times that it has become little more than a cliché. It sounds right so everyone just takes it for granted that it’s right; but are children actually “our most important resource?” More to the point, are they a resource at all?

There are certainly a lot of resources, both natural and manufactured. Many of them are necessary and a few are even highly valued. That definitely leads to asking which resource is most important. The sticking point is that children aren’t at the top of the list of important resources. Perhaps clean air and fresh water are worthy of consideration for places in the top five or so but not children.

Wonder what reasoning process lead to children being classified as a resource? A resource is something used or consumed by someone else. Even if the focus is the community or society, a resource is something available to be used or consumed by individuals or groups within the community or society. From that perspective, can people be resources? – At a minimum, it’s an odd concept that was rejected in Civil War times and shouldn’t be resurrected for children.

A person may have skills or knowledge that are available to others. A person may provide services that others may use. A person may produce products that others value and consume. People are individually and collectively associated with resources as providers and consumers, either directly or indirectly but are not, themselves, resources. It follows that, along with not being the most important resource, children are no more a resource than you. Children aren’t resources. They are people to the same extent and in exactly the same way you are. To argue otherwise is to diminish, depersonalize, and devalue children.

Start from an alternative assertion. Children are people too. They are resource producers and consumers, not resources. As is true for you, children have minimum resource requirements and a range of discretionary resource interests. Call that the core resource set, understanding that the elements of the core resource set vary from person to person.

Everyone, including children, also has rights and privileges associated with their memberships in specific groups and communities. Those rights and privileges are based on criteria established by those groups and communities. Age is certainly one of the criteria. An adult likely cannot attend the local elementary school, even though the educational services might be within that adult’s discretionary resource interests. A sixteen-year-old likely cannot vote in the local election, even though he or she may be better prepared to vote than those who are permitted to vote. Even so, age is only one of many criteria used to assign rights and privileges to individuals.

A core resource set and membership rights and privileges are associated with each individual in the group or community. This is no less true for children than for adults. Just as the core resource set is not the same for all members of the community, rights and privileges are not distributed uniformly. Some groups have rights and privileges that are configured differently than those associated with other groups. For example, there is a group that is permitted to vote, a group that is permitted to drive, a group that is permitted to attend public schools, and so on. At the same time, all community members have a right to be free from abuse and assault, sexual exploitation, unsafe food, and a long list of other rights of community membership.

This prompts another question. Are there core resource requirements, rights, and privileges that are specific to children as a distinguishable segment of the community’s members? The answer to that question is “Yes.” Children have core resource requirements that are, for the most part, the same as those for all members of the community. As is true for the elderly, the disabled, and other identifiable groups within the community, children also have core resource requirements specific to children. The fact that they do does not itself distinguish them from other groups with special, core resource requirements.

In addition to special, core resource requirements, children have rights and privileges that are not identical to everyone else in the community. For the most part, their rights and privileges are the same as those recognized for others. In some respects, though, they have some rights and privileges that adults do not have and are not afforded other rights and privileges that adults do have. One could, then, define childhood by the child-specific core resource requirements and the pattern of rights and privileges that differentiates children and adults. Call this definition the “special member benefits” assigned to children as members of the community.

If children are a resource, everyone should focus on protecting and nurturing that resource for the sake of the community. If instead, children are people too, full members of the community, everyone should focus on assuring that each child’s core resource requirements are satisfied and each child’s special and regular rights and privileges are respected. For example, abuse and neglect are not merely factors that increase risk and potential jeopardy to an important resource; and everyone’s responsibility is not simply to minimize that jeopardy. Rather, abuse and neglect are violations of the child’s rights and privileges and the clear responsibility is to stop the violation and to assure that the child has full and continuous access to all community membership benefits, special and regular, to which he or she is entitled. Among other things, this perspective means that the violation is to stop now, not gradually but immediately.

The challenge for the community is to stop the violation immediately, without interfering with or jeopardizing other core resource requirements, rights, and privileges of the child. Everyone’s responsibility is to be sure they do the right things, with the right people, in the right way, without inadvertently harming the child or disregarding his or her core resource requirements, rights, and privileges in the process. The challenge is indeed potentially daunting but no less mandatory for children than for you.


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Two From Simon On Relating Long Term

Simon says, "Have faith."

"I think you are fine just the way you are, trust you with that which is mine, and believe that you give everything you do your best effort." There you go, "faith" in a nutshell. Are you honestly able to say that to your significant other? If so, you have faith. If not, there may be a problem.

"You are fine just the way you are." If you can say this, you have put the first building block of faith into place. Each of you undoubtedly sees areas where you could personally improve, things you could do better. You certainly believe in continuous improvement. The key is that you each apply it to yourself but not to each other. Your relationship is not about judging or criticizing. It is about respect, trust, and mutual acceptance. You are not into changing each other, although each can expect the other's support if the individual chooses to change.

"I trust you with that which is mine." You have put the second building block into place. It includes material things but also holds things that are more personal. You have much of real value on this block. It holds your feelings, a piece of who you are and who you want to be, a part of your life that you cannot recover if it is lost. You have entrusted these intangibles freely and without reservation. You have committed an act of faith and expect nothing in return beyond having your faith reciprocated.

"You give everything you do your best effort." The third building block of faith may be the most important, since the first two depend on it. Would you say, "You are fine just the way you are," and "I trust you with that which is mine," if you knew that you were not going to get "best effort?" Not on your life, especially since your life is partially what is at risk.

Simon's point is simple. Faith is built from acceptance and trust but rests on believing that each of you is getting the best the other has to offer, every day, in every way. Sensitive Simon will not sing his theme song for you here; but please feel free to hum a verse or two should you have the urge.

Simon says, "Talk and share."

Have you ever played Twenty Questions? Someone is thinking of something. There usually is a category or some other limitation; but you need to guess what the person has in mind. You can ask up to twenty questions that can be answered "Yes," or "No." If you figure it out, you win. If not, the other person gives you the answer and is the winner.

Imagine how it would be to play this game if you had no idea what the category was. Now imagine how you would feel if, after your twenty questions, you were never told the answer. Do you think that you would keep playing? It is doubtful.

Relationships where one or both people do not talk and share are like the Twenty Question game. At first, whoever is most socially inclined asks the questions. The answers are non-responsive and vague. There is just not much useful feedback. Maybe sooner and maybe later, the twenty questions decrease to fifteen. The game is too frustrating and is getting boring. Fifteen decreases to ten and then to five. It is really exasperating and not worth the effort. Besides, who cares anyway? Five becomes four and the game fizzles out. No one is talking and sharing and no one cares.

Even without talking and sharing, you both continue your lives, are growing and changing. You each are having new experiences, are having new thoughts, see things differently, and are becoming different people. If this continues long enough, neither of you knows the other anymore.

What about your relationship? There is no relationship to be concerned about. You may still be going through the motions; but what you had together is gone. Perhaps you can have a renewed relationship eventually; but not any time soon. You would have to start building it all over again, if there is any interest or motivation for that sort of thing.

Simon's advice is simple. Talk and Share. Do it for each other, do it for today. Also, do it for tomorrow, unless you just like starting things over again. Whatever your choice, understand the cost of your silence.


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Extra: Child Protection Reform #12

Closed Structures And Fuzzy Boundaries

From the perspective of the traditional paradigm, child protection is a closed structure. Consider, for example, the desire to recognize and appropriately respond to suspected instances of child maltreatment. The structure is first limited to a particular population of children, e.g., all children in a limited area such as a state, service district, or county. Within that area, anyone such as a neighbor or concerned citizen may volunteer as an observer or "reporter." Additionally, some residents of the area such as teachers, child care workers, doctors, police, and others who regularly interact with children and parents are designated as mandated reporters.

The above results in what we may think of as the report pool. Included in the pool are instances of suspected maltreatment ranging from more to less serious, from more to less potentially harmful. Think of this range as falling along the horizontal axis of a graph from more serious toward the left and less serious toward the right. Now consider what proportion of actual instances of maltreatment is captured into the report pool. Although we do not know with certainty, we may assume most - but not all - instances of severe maltreatment are reported into the pool. It is equally reasonable to assume the proportion of reported instances compared to actual instances goes down as the severity decreases. This results in a reporting line starting high on the left of the graph where severity is high and gradually descending as severity decreases. The reporting pool is limited to those instances of suspected maltreatment falling under the reporting line. Please keep this graphical representation in mind as the discussion proceeds.

Visualize the reporting pool with its descending line starting higher on the left and descending to the lower right. Note the line represents the proportion of reported, suspected instances of maltreatment. Now consider the number of children affected by maltreatment. Based on data from the reporting pool and on the above noted assumptions, the number of affected children increases as the severity of suspected maltreatment decreases. As we move to the right in the graph, the number of children increases. There are a low number of maltreated children toward the left and increasingly more as the focus moves to the right.

Visualize the increase in the number of maltreated children as an increase in density. It is like the dots in a digital picture. Here, the dots are very scattered toward the left, becoming increasingly dense as one's perspective moves toward the right. There are only a few, widely separated dots at the extreme left and the view toward the extreme right is nearly solid. The same concept could be represented by a shift from nearly white on the left to nearly black on the right. Based on this conceptual framework, it is reasonable to assume at least as many, if not more, maltreated children fall above the reporting line as are captured within the reporting pool.

Now introduce the establishment of public policy and legislative action as they relate to maltreated children. As a matter of public policy, more severe instances of child maltreatment are clearly seen as contrary to the public interest. At the same time, less severe instances of child maltreatment are seen as not warranting governmental intervention. Using the graph introduced above, public interest includes only a portion of the reporting pool. At some point on the horizontal axis, insert a vertical line, with abuse and neglect toward the left of the line and all other maltreatment toward the right. The portion of child maltreatment under the reporting line and to the left of the vertical line just drawn represents child abuse and neglect and is the focus of public child protection activity.

As we can easily see, most child maltreatment falls outside of the abuse and neglect parameters. Further, the division between abuse and neglect on the one hand and all other maltreatment on the other hand is more correctly understood as a range as apposed to a clear boundary. The definitions of abuse and neglect are clear at the extremes; but as the incident shifts closer to "all other maltreatment," the boundary becomes fuzzy and open to judgment and interpretation by child protection workers. Whether a specific instance of maltreatment is classified as abuse or neglect may vary significantly from worker to worker, from place to place, and from time to time.

We may conclude from the above the reporting pool itself is a relatively closed structure excluding most maltreated children. Additionally, this closed structure has relatively fuzzy boundaries. The fuzziness exists between which incidents are referred into the reporting pool and which are not and which are classified as possible abuse and neglect and which are not. These fuzzy boundaries are, then, the primary focus for further legislative activity and public policy debate.


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Simon Is Back With Advice About Leadership & Fire Fighting

Simon says, "Take everyone into consideration when making decisions."

Again, Simon seems to be stating the obvious. People need and deserve consideration. They want to be involved and to have their interests and points of view considered whenever decisions are made. They expect to matter and to make a difference as individuals.

These points are certainly on target. There is another level of truth here, though. On the one side, not taking everyone into consideration runs the chance of alienating those who are left out or ignored. If that happens, they become less invested in the team and less committed to its success. Odds for achieving the mission go down and Simon's leadership is weakened. It is a similar outcome to that seen when power and control are used excessively and inappropriately. Do it yourself leadership does not work, unless you really do intend to do everything yourself.

On the flip side, the decision itself is suspect. There are people who could have and should have been consulted. The people who have to deal with the affects of the decision are taken by surprise and may not be prepared to handle the consequences of the decision. The rumor mill gets a new source of fuel and confusion within the team increases. Unintended problems develop and the original decision often has to be modified to accommodate to the consequences of not taking everyone into consideration. With all this, taking everyone into consideration is not only the sensitive thing to do, it is an essential strategy for leaders who value making the right decision, the first time, on time, every time.

Related to this is trying to understand the what and why of problems before taking action. This cannot be done without taking everyone into consideration. Simply put, that is the only way to be sure you first understand the problem. Even for Super Simon, it is ordinarily impossible to handle a problem until he actually knows what the problem is.

Recall the stool with only one leg? It is a good example of the what and why of problems. That stool belonged to a team that had a take-charge leader. He knew what the problem was and how to fix it. He simply threw the piece of junk into the trash and the problem was solved.

He first observed and analyzed: that is a piece of junk. Next, he defined the problem: junk should not be left laying around. Finally, he problem solved: into the trash it went.

Did this "I know what's best for everyone," approach solve the problem? Yes, it did. Did it cause other problems? It likely did not. Can you think of reasons why the approach might not have been appropriate? You probably can.

The issue with the approach is not so much whether it works as sometimes it does not. When it does work, which is most of the time, it goes unnoticed. When it does not work, people are upset, other problems develop, and a round of second guessing begins. If the leader is committed to doing the right things right, the first time, on time, every time, he will need to reconsider the approach.

Two points are important. First, problems seldom need an immediate, right now solution. When they do, then action must be taken; but there is normally time to at least ask a question or two. "Is there some reason why that one legged stool is just laying there? Does anyone have plans for using it? Is throwing it away going to cause anyone a problem?"

Second, and here is the most serious issue, the "I'll fix it myself without consulting with anyone approach" is habituating. The symptoms include an irritating increase in arrogance, less value being placed on other people and their contributions, increasing insensitivity to the needs and interests of others, and less focus on the team and its mission. Over time, the symptoms also include an increase in bad decisions and a decrease in problem's really getting solved. Instead of things getting better, they actually get worse; and the misguided leader does not have a clue why. He believes it is because people are causing problems instead of taking care of business.

You may hear him say, "I spend all of my time putting out fires. It is no wonder we don't make much progress. If everyone would just do what they are supposed to do, I could get things on track." Of course, he never considers the possibility his attitude and problem solving approach are, themselves, the underlying source of all those fires.


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Proactive Leaders #2

Proactive leaders accept people as is. Their goal isn’t to change anyone. Rather, they focus on encouraging and facilitating in ways enabling each person to achieve optimal performance within the context of their skills, abilities, and interests. Concurrently, they expect people to expand and improve their capacities and are ready to help however they can, within the resources and constraints of the organization. People are not expected to change but are expected to grow and develop as organizational participants.

Proactive leaders are not stingy with praise nor are they lavish with it. They are quick to recognize and acknowledge the successes and accomplishments of others but do not confuse praise with simple good manners.

Please and thank you and noting someone did a good job or was helpful are not examples of praise. They are, rather, merely examples of good manners and are integral to the proactive leader’s habitual deportment. Alternatively, praise is an intentional and thoughtful action which privately or publicly acknowledges and commends excellence. Proactive leaders reserve praise for exceptional or extraordinary performance, never missing an opportunity to praise when individual or group performance meets that standard.

Proactive leaders understand holding people responsible and accountable on the one hand and blaming and accusing them on the other are not the same. Holding someone responsible is a performance standard. Holding them accountable is a performance expectation. Alternatively, blaming and accusing imply negative opinions and perceptions of the individual.

To blame someone or accuse them represents a pejorative assessment of them. Blaming and accusing are always subjective and personal while responsibility and accountability are performance elements that can be objectively evaluated and, if necessary, adjusted. Since the individual or group are accountable for their performance, the level of responsibility extended to them may be increased or decreased, depending on their performance.

To blame or accuse are counterproductive and incompatible with proactive leadership. Holding people responsible and accountable are key elements in the proactive leader’s approach with people. It starts with holding himself (or herself) responsible and accountable and then simply extending the principle to everyone else in the organization.

Proactive leaders resist the temptation to either focus on what is not going well or on what is. It may be a function of human nature to attend mostly to the negative or to the positive, depending on ones personality. Proactive leaders understand this is not a simple matter of choice or personal preference. The key to success is seeing neither focusing on the positive nor on the negative is advisable.

At a more fundamental level, the reality is the organization is continuously transitioning from a past state to a future state. The primary responsibility of the proactive leader is to affect the transition so as to actualize the desired future state. To do this, the task is to reduce and eliminate the disparity between the present and future states, without redefining or compromising the future state. Focus then needs to be collectively on the cluster of elements affecting the future state either as contributors or as Detractors, understanding neither is more or less important than the other. Focus must be on the gestalt.

Proactive leaders demonstrate their respect for and are pleased by the successes and accomplishments of others. The key here is twofold. They both respect the achievements of others and actively demonstrate that respect and the pleasure they experience when others do well. Respect in this context includes holding the person and the action or accomplishment in high esteem, feeling delighted, and actively expressing approval.


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