Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Grit And Determination

She's only four years old, but she has a mind of her own.  And she even sets goals, though she wouldn't put it that way.  

We went to the zoo the other day, just the two of us.  The whole notion of a zoo is worth a blog post or two and I want to talk to someone at the zoo before I write that post, so this one is about my granddaughter and the monkey bars.

When we got to the zoo and looked at the map, she wanted to go to the playground.  I silently groaned, thinking we could go to the playground any time without paying to do so, but I smiled and off we went.

Then she found the monkey bars.  It turned out they were perfect for her.  Low enough that she could drop off without any harm.  And she set out to get across.  I didn't realize that at first.

She wanted me to hold her as she let go with one hand to reach for the next bar.  I did, but lightly.  My hand was really a placebo.  She waited patiently as other kids wanted to use the monkey bars too.  She would get two hands on one bar.  Then wildly let go and grab for the next bar with one hand.  Then she was stuck.

With my help she could get across.

It was crowded and I suggested we look at some animals and come back at the end.

When we got back, it wasn't so crowded.  With my hand on her back and tummy, gently, she started reaching from one bar to the next and then swinging the other hand all the way from last bar to the next one.

And then I moved away to take a picture and she managed to swing from one bar to the next to the next until her feet reached the other side.  This was what she'd wanted to do and it involved periods of hanging with a very pained look on her face before she dropped to the ground.  But she was so determined to make it happen.  She yelled and whooped when she was done.

And so yesterday, we searched for another playground that had monkey bars low enough for her to drop to the ground safely.  Our second playground, at the Midtown Cuddy Park by Loussac Library (which is closed while they rush to be ready for the reopening July 18), had what she needed.  Again, she needed my steadying hand the first couple of times.  And again there were frozen poses as she was stuck in the middle with pain on her face before dropping.  But eventually she screwed up the courage to just go.  And as painful as it was to watch as one little hand let go and struggled to reach the next bar, she was determined and she did it.

It was so exciting to see her setting a difficult goal for herself and overcoming everything to reach it.

And I think of all the little kids who aren't being nurtured and given the opportunity to explore the world and their possible roles in it.  The ones whose parents are both working full time just to pay the rent and get food on the table.  The ones who are earning a good living, but must give up family time to do that.  The ones who end up in foster care because their parents can't provide what they need.   Or whose teachers can't provide what they need.   And I think about all that society loses when we turn a potentially great human being into an angry, frustrated person.  The chart below shows that in May 2017, 3,103 kids were in some form of foster care in Alaska, up almost 100 from June of last year. (From DHSS website.)

This is less than 1%, but it's still too many, and the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) is overworked and can't really keep track of all these kids well.  Here's a 2012 workload study for the Office of Children's Services (OCS).  It said they needed nearly 50% more first line employees.

And here's from a June 29, 2017 KTUU story by Kyle Hopkins:
"Q: What about the number of cases per worker?
A: We’re shooting for a national average of 12 families per worker. So, if you think of a family having two children in it. That would mean that worker would be responsible for maintain records for two children as well as their parents as well as any relatives that may be involved with that case. So what we’re shooting for is the national average of 12 families per worker.
The reality is, what we’re seeing, is we have caseloads that are as high as 43 in Wasilla and can be as low as say five in Valdez.
And most cases are averaging in the 20 to 30 range in other areas of the state."

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