Think about your childhood. Recall a picture, an event or even a moment that evokes powerful memories of being connected to family. It could be your immediate family, extended family or even another family you were close to. Now think about WHY you recalled that picture or memory. What was it about that experience that gave you a feeling of love and belonging—of connectedness to family?
We all grew up in different cities, states and counties and in a variety of household and socioeconomic situations. Despite those differences, chances are that our memories of connectedness—and the factors that nurtured those feelings—will be universal. Rituals. Traditions. Love. A safe place to be seen and understood. These are the threads that connect children, families and communities.
This sense of connectedness is also what drives Accenture’s Child Services team. We want EVERY child to experience it. Yet in today’s world, too many face barriers: Maybe a custodial parent is having a hard time getting regular child support payments. Maybe Mom or Dad struggles to earn enough to put food on the table. Maybe a single parent can’t afford childcare despite working two jobs. Or maybe there are other troubles in the family, such as challenges with alcohol or drugs. Perhaps your own family experienced some of these struggles, or you know a family that does.
If we translate those struggles into statistics, it paints a grim picture. Sixteen million children are in the Child Support system today. Each year bring 4 million reports of child abuse or neglect to Child Welfare authorities. And some 430,000 kids are in foster care in the U.S. Many will not be reunited with their families. Nor will they be adopted. Instead, they’ll be left to age out of the system—making them seven times more likely to suffer drug addiction and five times more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder. By age 21, 43 percent will experience homelessness.
As we work with clients to help change the trajectory of those numbers, we never lose sight of the outcomes behind them: love, belonging and connectedness for kids. To get there, we put families and their children at the center of our work—with a goal of moving the market from fragmented, program-centered and transaction-based service delivery to coordinated, human-centered and outcome-based service delivery.
No, we can’t singlehandedly solve every complex challenge—from the number of children in poverty or foster care to the proportion not receiving child support payments. But rather than fixating on “can’ts,” we focus on what we CAN accomplish. We CAN align our goals, thinking and our recommended solutions to make a real difference in children’s lives. And we CAN be ever mindful of this fundamental truth, so beautifully articulated by journalist Jane Howard: “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”
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