May 16, 2013
By Edward Chisolm
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles. Some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
Nobody can do everything but everybody can do something! Jesus once said that “ye will always have the poor with you.” I feel the same way about certain types of crime, and in particular, crime among the ranks of our youth and young adults. I (for one) believed the chief of police when he stated that we have a “growing gang problem” in Savannah. Recently, the mayor has asked for the community’s help in addressing the crime issue. I believe we should respond.
Granted, some crimes of the violent type are unpredictable, random, and unavoidable. We live in a sin-sick society with sin-sick individuals. Evil individuals. Mentally unstable individuals. You simply are not going to “prevent” certain acts of violence from occurring. That being said, I do believe there are certain measures we can take, especially among our youth and young adults, that can be effective and long lasting. In our community, we have all types of responders: 1) we have first responders (e.g. fireman, police offers, paramedics, etc); 2) we also have organizations that provide wonderful intervention services; and 3) we even have social service providers that do a tremendous job of offering prevention services. We all have a role to play.
Law enforcement is, by and large, reactionary by its nature and function. Enforcement generally happens after a violation of the law has occurred. And thank God for that. It’s an “after the fact” reality that’s needed. But to address the full measure of the problem of juvenile crime, we need a multi-prong approach with multiple responders playing their key roles. It’s called collective impact.
We, the Chatham-Savannah Youth Futures Authority (YFA), will do a series of roundtable forums in 2013 to dialogue with these “responders” and ascertain exactly the strategies being deployed across systems and across organizations. We will also determine the level and degree of resources being applied to various concerns. The United Way of the Coastal Empire is leading a community dialogue around “community indicators,” and I think that about 100 indicators will be looked at. The YFA has produced our Kids Matter Profile for the past 19 years that reports on the well-being of children, youth and families. We identified 22 indicators initially. One of our priority areas is juvenile delinquency and crime. The notion is to take a critical look at the causes, as well as the strategies in place, to deal with the problem.
Much of our community resources are spent on the intervention end of the equation. There are best practice models across this country that we can employ here to address the problem from a prevention end. We simply have to talk to one another to ensure we are on the same page. We offer the YFA table to have that discussion and to do the analyses and make the critical decisions. We offer our table to partners, service providers and funders to determine what we are doing, and if we are being most expeditious in our deployment of sacred resources.
Are we even asking the right questions? Are we spending most of our dollars on intervention where we should be spending more on prevention services? Maybe we aren’t spending enough on certain indicators to move the needle in a positive direction. Maybe we are under capitalizing the problem! Perhaps we need to have a funders conference to ask funders who they are funding, how much are they funding, and do they really expect the needle to move on any of these indicators based on their funding levels and priorities. For example, Big Brothers Big Sisters is a best practice, evidence-based approach. Locally, are we supplying our Big Brothers Big Sisters program to the degree that will make the greatest difference and have the impact we are seeking? The nexus of the role that a best practice model like Big Brothers Big Sisters plays, and the role of major funders, is the conversation that needs to be held, again.
All of it is not about money. We also need to pay particular attention to public policy. Nothing much is going to change unless we do our business differently as it relates to children and families. We (YFA) can’t, as an organization, provide services (directly), but we can have a profound impact on how direct services are delivered, and to what degree these service providers are equipped to do so. Our commitment is to ensure that the right data is on the table to make informed decisions, and to determine whether our partners truly have the capacity to carry out what we need for them to do. My role is to be an advocate for children, youth and families. Advocacy takes on many forms (i.e. direct confrontation, diplomacy, capacity-building, data collecting and reporting, and partnership development), just to name a few. Again, nobody can do everything but everybody can do something.
On the issue of juvenile delinquency and crime, law enforcement can’t solve the problem alone, nor can Juvenile Court or the parents of these youth. Nor can the myriad of direct social service providers who are already overwhelmed. But together we can. Collective impact. It starts with clarifying roles and having frank but real world conversations. This is the necessary, unappreciated work that must happen before…well…anything happens.
Role clarification precedes role identity. Jesus told Peter “get behind me Satan.” It was a role clarification moment. Peter didn’t fully understand the role (sacrificial lamb) Jesus was playing, but Christ did and he as much said: he had to go to Jerusalem; he had to suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes; he had to be killed; and he had to be raised on the third day (Matthew 16:21). It doesn’t get much clearer than that. At another time, Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. I really appreciate the notion that Jesus knew his role, he was clear about it, and he didn’t allow anyone (even someone who loved him and was very close to him) stop him from his mission. Could we be so clear? Again, it starts with communication. I look forward to the dialogue with our partners. I look forward to getting a handle on the various roles we are playing to address these problems. And I look forward to making decisions that will positively impact the lives of children, youth and families. What’s your role?
Love, Peace & Blessings