A Song for Families

A Song for Families

An episode of NPR’s all-songs-considered has been stuck in my head for the past week or so.  I listened to it on the drive back to DC from the holiday weekend.  The theme was anthems.  It was fascinating.  The hosts discussed the contexts in which the songs were written, how each came to be known, what they represented and why they warranted anthem status.  They explored how anthems can celebrate, commemorate, or question if America is living up to its ideals-- and how each type was inherently patriotic.  The Star Spangled Banner headlined, but the hosts soon turned to “This land is our land,”  “Blowing in the Wind”, “Born in the USA”, “Fight the Power” (both versions) and a couple others.  They unpacked the songs.  Some were controversial.  Some were misunderstood.  All are emblematic.

Guthrie sang to the dangers of economic disparity.

Springsteen called us to do better by veterans.

Dylan questioned the prudence of war.

 Public Enemy spoke for racial justice.

A favorite artist of mine, Josh Ritter, has a song “All Some Kind of Dream” that was not mentioned – released in 2019—calling us to recognize our common humanity, that could easily be an anthem for today.

I could not help but draw parallels to our work in child welfare.

I was lump in the throat struck by the parallels.

At the Children’s Bureau we’ve spent the last two years promoting a new vision for child welfare in the United States.  This vision is rooted in the moral and ethical need to proactively work to strengthen families and communities to address the risk factors that we know make families more vulnerable to child maltreatment.  We believe that doing this will help prevent maltreatment from every happening.

The vision recognizes that children exist within families and need families – specifically their own families.

Our current system is designed and funded – almost exclusively – to separate children from their families.  It does little to support families to prevent crisis from arising and far too often unintentionally harms the very children we are trying to help.

We’ve been working to promote a unified vision of what child welfare can and should be in the United States.  We’ve called for a fundamentally different orientation.  The vision is beginning to resonate.

The vision is for a system that creates the conditions for all families and communities to thrive and children to be free from harm.

The vision is far bigger than any one law.

Realizing the vision requires us to engage in serious reflection and to contemplate our values.

We have a chance to write an anthem together with families and communities, one that honors and values family unity and family well-being and the communities we live in.

We have a moment.

It is fleeting.

The trauma that children and parents are experiencing is real and will have long lasting effects.

It will impact all of us.

If we care we must be bold.

We can stop it, but must feel a fierce urgency to act, an urgency fueled by conscience, faith, justice, fiscal responsibility or any combination thereof.

The time to write an anthem for families is now.

We need only listen to families and youth with lived experience to learn the lyrics.


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