Why treatment with kids and families should not be like repairing your refrigerator.
Over Labor Day weekend my refrigerator decided to stop working. It was only 2 years old so I decided to load it up in the back of my car and take it to an appliance repair shop first thing Tuesday morning. The staff at the shop were very nice; they took my contact information and reported that they would get ahold of me after a technician took a look at it. I called back Wednesday after not hearing from them and they told me that the refrigerator was scheduled to have a technician look at it on Friday. After I moaned about the time wait and inconvenience, they explained that it would have been quicker (and as it turns out – cheaper) to have had a technician come to our home to repair it.
They were again very nice and said she would see if they could move it up to Thursday. I called back Thursday and they were not able to squeeze it in, I called back Friday, and they put “logs” on the appliance for testing that they planned to run over the weekend. I called back Monday and the technician wasn’t in, but the logs had been running all weekend. On Tuesday (8 days now without a refrigerator) I called and asked for a manager and he got a technician to get back with me, who wanted one more day of testing. On Wednesday they had diagnosed the problem, and reported that they would have to order a part that would take 7 – 10 days to arrive.
So what is the problem? Everyone was very nice, they were professional, the manager was empathetic, the technician appeared knowledgeable – but no one took a step back to explain to me the process.
“Mr. White, we will not be able to get to your refrigerator until the end of the week, and we don’t usually stock parts for that model, which usually take about 7 – 10 days for the order. What will you do for a refrigerator in the mean time? We do have rental appliances if that would be helpful. Oh, by the way, if you want to just bring it back home we can probably get a technician out later today or tomorrow as we don’t have technicians scheduled in the shop.”
I believe that we need to take a step back when working with kids and families; we need to see them in a larger context, not just hoping to “fix” their “brokenness.” Who and where is their family, where do they feel they belong, what has happened to them, what are their hopes and dreams, where do they go to school, who are their supports, what do they like to do? We need to see the whole person and work with them in context of their world view of wants and needs. Sometimes we focus too much on the brokenness, or behavioral elements, and need to expand our view to see beyond “treatment” to whether they have the care, love, support, connection, hope, and educational, medical and vocational access for a successful future.
I was only inconvenienced by my refrigerator, but we have the privilege of helping people heal their lives. Let’s make sure that we are able to take an expanded view of each individual’s needs so that we can truly help them live a healthy life.