December/January 2023Vol. 23, No. 10Feel Every Second, A Message From the Associate Commissioner
Feel Every Second
Written by Aysha E. Schomburg
We are back in the holiday season again. I’m always in awe about how fast time passes. For many, it will be the first holiday season in 2 years where families can gather indoors in a crowded house. We are heading into the new year and can spend some time reflecting on the past year. I have been thinking about my own family. We aren’t nearly as close as we used to be; the “children” in the family are grown up now and the elders are frail. I’m finding it hard to watch my parents get older, especially my mom who is so dear to me and whose health has declined significantly. My mother has always been my protector. Now, I want to protect her, but I cannot. Still, I see her as often as I can. I cherish our time together. I’m realizing how much I love to hear her laugh. I don’t take any second for granted. I’m thankful for every second. Every second has meaning.
Yet, as I write this, there are approximately 400,000 children in foster care in this country. How will they experience this holiday season? How are their families doing? What are we saying to the child who has been away from their parents for a month—how many seconds have they lost? What message are we sending to the youth who have been away from their parents for years? That’s not ok. They are not okay. They are losing seconds. As professionals in this field, we must understand the value of a second. We know that children experience time differently than adults. What we think is just a few days can feel like an eternity to a child. Separated children feel every second. Many of these children are living temporarily with other family members, and we hope this will keep the family connection strong and decrease the time to reunification. But is that enough to the child who wants to be with their mom and dad for the holidays? I have wonderful aunts, but when I’m going to see my mother, it’s because I want to be with my mom.
I have a request this holiday season. Let’s think about how a child experiences time. Let’s feel every second. I want us all to work harder, smarter, and faster. I want to call on our profession to reevaluate their protocols that make it difficult for parents to see their children. We should reevaluate protocols that add time to a child’s stay in foster care. You don’t have to change everything at once—but accept this challenge to make one small change this holiday season that will bring families back together faster. Consider creating a team that can review current policies and propose new protocols that will eliminate the obstacles parents face that prevent them from spending real quality time with their children. Parents want to hear their children laugh. Parents understand that every second has value.
Sometimes when I am thinking about particular tasks I want to accomplish, I will use the familiar phrase “all deliberate speed.” When I say it out loud to my team, they know it means that I want us to act without delay. We need to act with all deliberate speed to bring children safely home. Every second has value.