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May 2024Vol. 25, No. 4Ten Toes Down, A Message From Aysha E. Schomburg

Written by Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg

Twenty-four years ago, almost to the day, I was working at a certain organization in New York when I was offered my first job in child welfare. I didn’t know a whole lot about child welfare as a profession at the time, but I knew about foster care. I knew that even when it was necessary, it was not good. I didn’t understand as much as I do now about the nuances—the extreme consequences of family separation—but I did understand that there were children in need. I was curious about the position, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to take that professional leap.

I called my mom and asked her, “what should I do?” I always sought guidance from my mom when I needed to make a big decision and she always knew exactly what to say. For much of my life, she might have known me better than I knew myself. Without hesitation, she replied, “Aysha, go where you are needed most.” It was after that conversation that I accepted the job.

Now, here I am, 24 years later, more committed, and more determined than ever before and, frankly, still following her advice. What on earth could be more important than supporting children and families when they need it? I can’t think of one thing. Now, as professionals, we know so much more about listening to what children, young adults, and families need than we did when I accepted that job so many years ago. We value lived experience and true collaboration. We understand foster care is a last resort and we know for sure, we cannot prevent it alone. We need all hands—education, housing, family assistance, health systems, philanthropy. As professionals when we say prevention takes a village—we mean we must live harmoniously with the other villagers. To do it right, our work requires unprecedented commitment to serving families, wholly and holistically.

I have been fortunate to have found my purpose in life the day I followed my mother’s advice. I have lived a purpose driven life in complete service of children and families; I do it with love in my heart, and I am fortunate to have never known regret. There’s so much more to do, I keep challenging myself to level up. I firmly believe that as long as we are breathing, we can evolve. I also believe that the path to evolution is a choice.

The universe set me up to evolve when I accepted this challenge. It swung the door wide open, and I walked through it and stayed for 3 solid years. In certain belief systems, three represents understanding, which is attained through knowledge and wisdom. During our time, the Children’s Bureau has advanced in each of these qualities, which has led to unprecedented accomplishments. It has truly been an honor to serve you, and to serve this nation, in this way.

Evolution, if you choose it, is constant. I can hear my mother’s voice telling me that now it is time for me to go where I am needed most. So, I will go. And while evolution requires change over time, my purpose remains fixed. I will continue with my service to children and families. Assuredly, my service is my purpose and, wherever I go, I will always lean in on it with unparalleled love, ten toes down.