When I was in junior high at the height of the 80s glam rock era, a friend of mine and I decided that we wanted to start a rock band. We came up with a name. I worked on a logo. We went to an army surplus store to begin scouting out cool clothes (and, of course, boots) that we could cobble together into rock star attire. We spent a day cleaning out an old train car on my family’s farm that served as the core structure of our barn (cool, right?) We figured that this would be the perfect practice space (never mind that it had no electricity). After all, what is more awesome than practicing rock music in an old train car? This would, of course, be the perfect setting for our first album cover.
We were all set . . . except for one thing.
We couldn’t play the guitar.
I had learned a little bass guitar from my older brother (who was in a rock band), but I didn’t commit myself to it nearly like he had. And my friend? Well, he owned a guitar, but I don’t think he ever really practiced it.
We wanted to be rock stars. We just didn’t want to practice the guitar.
While I’d like to chalk this short-sightedness up to the underdeveloped prefrontal cortexes of two Jr. High boys, I think this kind of thing is common for all of us.
- We want to run a marathon (we may even own awesome running shoes). We just don’t want to get up tomorrow morning to run around the neighborhood to train.
- We want to bench press 300 pounds, but don’t want to go to the gym to do the work necessary to get there.
- We envision ourselves beautifully playing Christmas carols on the piano with friends and family gathered round on Christmas eve, but we aren’t committed to mastering Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
And then there’s this one:
We want to transform the foster care system and insure every child has permanency, but we don’t always fuel this zeal with the knowledge required to get there. One of the criticisms foster care advocates (and humanitarians of all kinds) face sometimes is that we are zealous to do good, but don’t always take the time to learn the skills necessary to do this work wisely and well. Here are three things you can do starting today to become a truly transformative foster care advocate:
- Commit yourself to a steady diet of knowledge and wisdom through books, articles, podcasts*, and blog posts. While much of this content may center on child welfare issues, not all of it should. If you are leading people, commit to growing as a leader. If you find yourself communicating to audiences large or small, commit to doing a few things a year to become a better communicator. If you have a website or printed materials learn how to maximize the impact of these tools by learning from experts in these areas.
- No matter your role, keep yourself engaged in contexts where you interact with kids in care, child welfare professionals, foster parents and others. These ongoing conversations keep us grounded and keep us meeting the needs that real people have through the work that we do.
- Seek out information about foster care models that are working and explore research that has been done. Taking time to interact with this kind of information will have an impact on the way you do things, steadily improving the quality of your work and the impact you make.
When you engage in these things, you’ll find that the knowledge you pick up along the way will start seasoning your language, your planning, and your practice with wisdom. This will help you to become a great foster care advocate.
And if you want to want to be a rock star, you’ll have to practice the guitar for that.
- The Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast
- The Forgotten Podcast
- The Honestly Speaking Parenting Podcast
- The Tapestry Adoption and Foster Care Ministry Podcast
- The Think Orphan Podcast
This post originally appeared in our Foster Roster e-newsletter which is delivered each Friday. We keep it short and sweet and fill it with practical articles, videos, blog posts and other tools for leaders like you working to provide more than enough for kids and families in foster care. To sign up, go to http://bit.ly/1rwn6eO.