Raising the bar

At last week’s annual CWLA Conference in Washington, D.C., I was honored along with other colleagues for helping to “raise the bar” for vulnerable children and families in this country. I was surprised by the recognition, but gratified that my efforts over the years, and in particular my support for the work of CWLA, was acknowledged. The recognition I received was an indicator of not only my efforts, but also of the collective effort shown by Hillsides staff to raise a voice for the children and families we serve.

As I thought about the recognition, I was reminded of a time when I sat in the plaza on campus having lunch one day this past summer watching a young boy arrive to be admitted to the residential treatment program with only a plastic bag of belongings. He was subdued when I met him and offered little affect when greeted. His withdrawal was profound and made me inquire about his situation. Left without his biological parents, he was placed in an adopted home. For numerous reasons the adoption failed and now he was placed at Hillsides with the hope of finding a permanent home for him soon. However, complicating the situation was that he was also being treated for leukemia. Although we often have residents who have very specific health conditions that require special attention, this young boy was the first resident who was admitted and actively being treated for such a serious condition.
A few days after his admission, I began to ask staff how he was doing and questioning how we were adjusting our typical program to address his special medical needs. Although staff had indicated an initial reluctance to admit a child in such a compromised health condition, I believe we were also confident that we would rise to the occasion and do whatever was necessary to individualize a program of care for him. Indeed it has been that kind of approach that has allowed us to be so successful with this boy. Although he will continue with us for a while, his health has stabilized and we are hopeful we will be able to find a loving family to receive him into their home.
These kinds of extraordinary efforts are really what “raising the bar” is all about. Efforts to advocate, assure quality care, and develop integrated, effective systems of care are all well and good; however, their success is measured by the impact created. Hillsides is known not just for the array of quality programs, but more importantly, for our willingness to make the extra effort and individualize programs to best serve the needs of the children we serve. This approach is indeed the best example of what it means to “raise the bar” for children and their families.
The bar is not just raised by any one person, but by a community that truly values all its children and places its many resources available to make a lasting impact.

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