Leaving Our Comfort Zones (it’s all for the good!)

I had the privilege of attending the recent annual symposium of the National Organization of Victim Assistance (“NOVA”) in San Diego this week.  I was in the company of well over 1500 victim advocates who exemplify the meaning of being passionate about their calling to help others.  I was honored to do a presentation at one of the breakout sessions where I got to talk with many of the attendees on a more personal basis.  My participation in the symposium energized my commitment to seeing our grass roots endeavor through to a successful conclusion.

The conversations I had with many of those at the symposium confirmed one thing for me.  All of us, and I am definitely including myself in this, will need to leave our comfort zone of working in the background.  The agenda that has come together will demand our best effort even when we face challenges and potential setbacks.  Those events will simply be opportunities for us to excel.

Please join with me in this project.  I am confident that our efforts will be successful in getting the national registry of child abusers fully operational. We will also be successful in changing the way in which child abusers are sentenced – focusing on the harm that was done to the child victim(s), rather than what is expedient.  The time is now and the hard work begins today.

Focus Our Attention

“STAN” – Stop The Abuse Now!
I have waited to see what people’s comments might be concerning the immediate focus of our efforts. From what I am hearing there are two primary concerns.
First, as individuals and as a group, we need to take whatever steps are needed to insure that each state has an active child abuser registry for all convicted child abusers. Using the experience of the states in developing the registry for sex offenders, we should be able to avoid many of the pitfalls and delays in getting the registry for convicted child abusers up and running nationwide.
The second goal is to insure that each state assesses the effectiveness of its laws for child abusers. We should ask each legislature to consider revising the laws to insure that there are mandatory minimum sentences for child abuse events which involve physical, mental, and/or emotional abuse of children. The mandatory minimums should increase with each subsequent conviction.
With these two goals in mind, we can now begin our work. I will be the first to say that this task will not be easy. However, it is well worth every ounce of effort we put into it. The option of doing nothing is not available to us any longer. Our children are depending upon us to speak up for them, including the ones whose voices have been silenced forever.
I know the summer vacation continues for many of you but I ask you to please get involved.  If not us, who?

Our First Step

A heartfelt thank you to all who have read and shared the recent posts.   Now let’s take our first concrete step toward achieving our goal.

The grass roots movement starts with everyone who has read and shared the posts, talked about them with friends, or have family and friends who are passionate about making this movement a reality joining a meeting near them.  This meeting can be in person, over the phone, via Skype, or whatever means you have to get folks to come together in small groups. This movement already has people who can lead such meetings so please step up!  The focus of the meeting will be to brainstorm and develop 3 – 5 priorities you would like us to focus on.   Notes should be taken of all the ideas on the priorities and the listing forwarded to me.  If at all possible, let’s get our contributions together by the the end of July.

If someone thinks of something they want to see on the list but forgot to mention it in a meeting, send it directly to me.  If you have questions about how to get a meeting organized and creating an agenda, please contact me.  I am a resource for you   The email address is vcswish@gmail.com and direct inquiries are always welcome.

If you reside in the Phoenix, Arizona area, I will be happy to host however many meetings we can to give folks a chance to contribute to the grand list of priorities.  With the help of some very good friends we will compile a master list of all suggestions.  That list will be published in an upcoming post. Your comments on that list will help develop the final list of priorities.

We have to do this.  Our children are depending on us.

Let’s get started

In the time that has passed since my last blog, more children have been abused and several more silenced forever. It is time for us, as leaders in our communities, to start the long overdue process to end this madness.

I now request that each of you share this blog with all of your contacts because we are going to engage in an online brain storming session to start our work.  Our collaboration begins with ideas on two important points.  How can we best make the national registry an effective tool, and how do we change state and federal legislation that will insure convicted child abusers are punished to the fullest extent of the law.  Another point follows from the last one – we need to have the most effective system in place to insure that people charged with child abuse are charged appropriately, especially in situations where a plea agreement is reached.  Each charge should reflect the seriousness of the harm caused the victim.  If a child dies as a result of the injuries inflicted, we need to work with victim advocates and others to insure that the prosecution brings the most appropriate charge against the defendant.  Doing this lets victims know that our society has their best interests in mind and the sentencing goals of specific and general deterrence might actually come to mean something.

My request for help in achieving this goal reflects my personal philosophy – If it truly does not matter who gets the credit, we can accomplish any goal.  Please remember the focus of our activity – to make the national registry effective, and to work with the criminal justice system to insure that those convicted on child abuse charges are not given a wink and a nod for their conduct. Children’s lives are at stake.


A Call to Action

This mother’s day was very poignant in that I got to talk with my son and daughter-in-law, received a delightful gift, and got to share time with some little ones who live near me. The happiness of the day was tempered, however, and I ask you all to please bear with me.

A little over 15 or so months ago I became involved in the lives of three little boys who were rescued from a very abusive and deadly situation. Unfortunately, their three-year old sister did not survive her last abusive episode and her voice has been forever silenced. The physical and emotional scars suffered by her brothers, in particular the two older boys (ages 5 and 4 when they were rescued) continue to pose challenges to them. As we learn more and more about what they needed to do to survive, I marvel at their strength – knowing what I know now I cannot begin to imagine the depth of courage it took for them to take the abuse and continue to survive.  Thrive is a whole different story and all three are struggling to thrive.

A few days prior to Mother’s Day I learned that a dear friend’s extended “family” was enduring an unimaginable, devastating challenge as their two-year old toddler now struggles to survive the abuse he suffered at the hands of a trusted caregiver.

Unfortunately, stories such as these are all too familiar. But they need not be. As leaders within our organizations, our communities, our religious communities, and elsewhere, we have a moral and ethical obligation to stop this madness. Simply shaking our heads as we read or hear about such stories is no longer enough. We have a very effective tool available to us that was signed into law in 2006 – a national registry for convicted child abusers, along the same lines as the sex offender registry. It is codified at 42 United States Code, Section 16990. We have community organizers who do marvelous and wonderful things such as fundraisers and bake sales. Would it be too much to ask that we consider our children, especially those at risk, to be just as important as fundraisers and bake sales? MADD has been such a tremendous organization and a catalyst in getting important legislation passed which has focused the spotlight on drunk drivers. What if we created Mothers Against Child Abuse – MACA or whatever acronym we can come up that is legal and available for use? What if we use this new organization to help focus the spotlight on this issue and bring about even more effective state and federal legislation which is actually enforced?

What if we join forces with all the victim advocates and human services workers who deal with this tragedy daily and tell prosecutors and judges that it is no longer acceptable to hand out slaps on the wrist for child abusers who not only abuse their victim(s) but also cause their death? I certainly know that prosecuting such cases can be difficult for all concerned. But don’t we owe it to the children in our society the same thing we adults cherish – the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? If you don’t agree with me, tell me how you’ll explain to that abused child in the ER suffering from life threatening injuries that he/she isn’t entitled to a future. Someone please tell me how to shut out the sounds of a toddler screaming as the ER staff is working on them. Tell me how to tell a 3-year old little girl that she has no voice simply because an adult tired of having her around.

If you truly want to make a difference in the life of a child, especially those already identified as being at-risk, please join with me to end this tragedy once and for all. Our children deserve better from us.

Random Thoughts on Baseball

Just over two weeks ago the spring training season for the Cactus League ended and it was on to MLB taking center stage. Fortunately – well, at least for now, the Orioles are tied for first place and not ten games behind the division leaders. There is hope!
As I watched some of the spring training games I realized that baseball can be a good example for folks wanting to know how to face adversity. Or life. Think about it. Three strikes and you’re out counts only for that at bat. Unless it’s the ninth inning and the home team is winning, the visiting team will get another at bat, with a chance to win the game. Like golf, baseball teaches us to make the most of the mulligans, or in baseball terms, the foul balls. Each gives us another opportunity to hit the game winning home run, get on base in order to score the game winning run, or get put out running as fast as we can to first base. Baseball also teaches us that those folks who half step it and don’t make their best effort are eventually going to meet up with karma. How many times have we seen a major league player dog it down to first base only to realize too late that he could have beaten the throw and become the tying or winning run for his team? How many of us have seen such behaviors among some folks within our organizations? Too bad we don’t have a trade clause in those personnel contracts.
Our leadership within our organizations can take some lessons from baseball – it’s about character and effort and not necessarily the flash and the bling. Sometimes we don’t win the game in the ninth inning, making for a miracle comeback, but for the next game, we start with a clean slate and have yet another opportunity to excel. And fans throughout the country know that this year will be the miracle year for their favorite team. After all, if the Cubs can do it, so can my beloved Orioles!

Impatiently Awaiting the Arrival of Spring

I don’t know about you but I’m ready for spring to come and stay for several weeks. My move to Arizona several years ago was deliberate – I don’t do cold and wet weather any more. But this spring has been weird. When folks back east tell me they’re having warmer temperatures than I’m experiencing, that’s just wrong on all levels.
I’m going to guess that by now you all are thinking I’ve lost my focus. What does the weather have to do with leadership? Don’t worry. I’m about to connect the dots.
Think about your own mood and approach to the work day when you wake up to find that once again it’s overcast and it’s been a few days since you’ve seen blue skies and felt the warmth of the sun. Think about your reaction when you have to go to the office in the snow/rain – again. How many of us acknowledge that our staff’s work performance can be and likely is affected by each individual’s response to the gloom, cold, and wet of late winter/early spring?
Is your management team aware of how weather can impact job performance all while knowing that in about a month or so things are going to get better? Or do you and your management team take a “suck it up, it’s all about the bottom line” approach? Actually, it’s only somewhat about the bottom line. More accurately, it’s about your people. Take good care of them and they’ll take care of the bottom line for you.
Just a little something for us all to think about. Now, I’m off to watch another harbinger that better weather is coming – baseball’s Cactus League spring training is in full swing!

Choices = Consequences

There have been any number of news stories about people demanding a freedom of choice.  Usually the story is about some individuals demanding the freedom to do whatever they want, when they want.  I will be the first to say that choice is a good thing.  However, what is often overlooked is that with freedom of choice comes consequences.  Whatever choice we make, we pay the consequences, good or bad.  But it seems that people only want the first part of the equation and apparently cannot and will not accept the bad consequences of their decisions.  When they make a poor choice, they demand that someone else pay those consequences.  Putting it bluntly, toddlers make bad choices and our parental concerns are that they are protected from the consequences so that they do not get hurt.  Many parents take advantage of such opportunities to help our toddlers make better choices.  Apparently we have been seeing a great number of toddlers masquerading as “adults” in news reports.

As leaders within our organizations, we suffer the consequences when we make poor choices or when our employees make poor choices.  That is the reality and we need to make sure that we are modeling the appropriate behaviors.  When we mess up, we cannot and should not be shifting the responsibility to subordinates.  That is both poor leadership and unethical behavior.  Instead, we need to take our medicine and learn from our mistakes.  When our employees make poor choices, we need to insure that they understand that they own the consequences of that behavior.  We also need to help them learn from their mistakes.

Bottom line?  We own our choices, good or bad, and with our choice come consequences.  Whether we like it or not, we own those, too.

A different reflection

Dear readers –

Today’s posting will be quite different and I hope you will indulge me.

Yesterday’s news of the passing of the legendary Debbie Reynolds was very hard to wrap my brain around, coming so quickly after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher.  I was very fortunate many years ago to attend a presentation of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”  in New Haven, Connecticut with two of my sisters.  Watching and listening to Debbie Reynolds in that role is a treasured memory (along with getting her autograph on my program!) but even better was seeing her interact with the young people in attendance.  After the show Debbie came back onstage and directed her immediate comments to those children, introducing herself as “Princess Leia’s mother.”  It captivated all of us who remained in the audience.  I was and will remain a fan of both of these great ladies.  Why?  Not simply because of their artistic talents but more because of the struggles they endured in their personal lives and shared candidly with others.  The spotlight of public attention on mental illness shone brighter because of Carrie’s work and that of her mother.  The overcoming of adversities in their relationship is something that many mothers and daughters can relate to and yet, through it all, they never lost focus on what was truly important in that relationship.  For me, they demonstrated the true meaning of empathy, talent, and a drive to make things better for others.  What a great legacy and I hope that we can all contribute to that legacy, each in our own way.  After all, helping one another achieve greatness, overcome adversity, or simply to let others know we value them is a truly wonderful gift.  May that gift continue to be shared for many generations to come.

Another Teachable Moment

What sort of teachable moment can we take away from the last few months and how do we apply it to our organizations and people?   The key I think is to renew our efforts to eliminate political correctness from our organizational cultures and vocabularies.  You all know that I cannot recall any other social movement which has done more to stifle collaborative discussion and problem solving than the intellectual tyranny foisted on us by a very vocal minority.  Nor can I recall a recent social movement which has done more to marginalize individuals.  So how do we move forward?

As leaders within our organizations we owe it to ourselves, our staffs, and our organizations to return respect and compassion to our way of interacting with others.  Obviously, the election results were going to bring about significant change, no matter which candidate won.  Implementing the various changes which will now result will more than likely bring about increased levels of stress and anxiety.  What can we do to reduce the stress and help insure that our staffs know that they are respected and valued members of our organizations?

If we have to practice some form of social movement, let us all think about ways in which we can implement, model, and practice emotional correctness.  Treating others with respect and courtesy tends to lead to something rather amazing.  Getting to know the people we think we do not like, learning that we usually have more things in common than things which are different, makes it a bit more difficult to treat one another with disrespect and hatred.  As the leaders, we can show our staffs that we value each individual, respect the differences which make us unique, and work together to find the best ways of achieving our goals.