Keeping an Eye Upstream

Gary WolskyBy Gary Wolsky, President/CEO
The Village Family Service Center

Four villagers working along a river bank see children floating by and out of sight. The first villager works frantically to pull out as many as he can. The second villager decides the best approach is to teach the children to swim. The third villager rallies the rest of the village to understand the plight of the children, but the wise fourth villager marches upriver to find out who is throwing them in.

I heard this story many years ago and have always thought it quite profound. I believe it is worth pondering from the standpoint of The Village’s work with kids and families for the past 123 years.

Sometimes we don’t get the opportunity to go upriver to find the “source” of the children floating by. When that happens, we deal with the reality of the situation—knowing that whatever the source may be, appropriate interventions by trained professionals can be the key in helping kids and families chart a new and successful course.

Many (or most) people don’t show up at one of our offices until the situation that gets them there has been going on for some time. The damage is greater, the problem(s) more ingrained and, naturally, the recovery more difficult, than if the issue were addressed early on. Although nearly all of us have heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, not all live by it. It’s probably a simple matter of human nature.

So, we invest a great deal of energy and dollars to “pull kids out of the river.” And we’re really good at it. Our outcome measurements show we are successful in helping people through tough times. Client and referral survey results clearly show The Village has an exemplary reputation, and is very well known for its work in “pulling kids out of the river” and saving them from the dangers downstream.

The other aspect of our work that is equally, if not more, gratifying is when we send people up river. Big Brothers Big Sisters is one example of this work. After four decades of commitment to these kids, we know the impact can be huge and life changing—and all based on the concept of prevention.

Another example is our work with children in Minnesota—nothing we do from a prevention standpoint is more encouraging. The Village is one of the “go to” agencies in dealing with children’s mental health issues in the state. Our counselors in Minnesota are experts in diagnosing early childhood mental health issues, and are well-trained in a host of distinctive approaches that can change the course of a child’s life—and the course of their parents’ lives as well.

And last but not least, Nokomis Child Care Centers represents one of our best opportunities at intervention in the lives of young people and their families. Nokomis is a community jewel. For 40 years Nokomis has been attending to the special needs of kids who, for a variety of reasons, require the attention of a unique group of trained and dedicated professional educators. At Nokomis, teachers, speech therapists, family therapists, and others work together to make sure these kids get a good start in preparation for the challenges of life. Nokomis is a great example of The Village’s longstanding commitment to work “upriver” in an effort to create a level playing field for all children, regardless of their circumstances. And we’re not done with our vision of what Nokomis can be. Our dream of even going farther up river in applying our holistic approach to these kids can take our work and Nokomis, along with other programs, to unprecedented levels.

The Village’s success in these areas couldn’t happen without a caring and dedicated community that recognizes the vital importance of early support and intervention, and its importance in a child’s ability to develop his or her full potential.

To the donors that make it happen, I extend our thanks on behalf of all the children and families we serve. Your partnership allows us, together, to go up river and ensure a greater likelihood of success for thousands of kids and their families.

The opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of The Village Family Service Center CEO. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization, staff, or boards of directors.

Filed Under: Opinion

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