Tag: broken

The Broken System

*Writers Note: The following article contains links to news and data related to this topic.  Please take the time to educate yourself on the crisis in Arizona and then pray about where God would use you to move on behalf of children and families in crisis.

Spend any amount of time in social services and you will inevitably hear the phrase, “The system is broken”.  In fact, the “broken system” has become such a norm that we never really pause to think about it.  It is a widely accepted fact that we simply must work within.  It’s broken, but we do our best.

But the question must be asked:  Why is the system broken?  And more importantly, can we fix it?  With over 17,000 children in Arizona Foster Care, can we really afford to do our best with something that doesn’t work?  Children born to broken homes, handed to a broken system; the irony is palatable.

I’ve meditated on the issue for the past ten years as I’ve worked in and around foster care and adoption.  I have spent a decade with this system and her children.  Watched its attempts at success, and had front row seats to its failures.  It was broken long ago, and it will crumble with these rising numbers.  The current system of foster care will not sustain 17,000 children.  It will fail.  That failure has a cost no child should pay.

Children failed by the system have multiple moves, caregivers, schools, and homes.  They are over medicated and under schooled.  They are sexually assaulted, physically abused, and lose their lives under the rubble of this system.  These traumas have life long consequences.

And Christian, it is important to note, that we are the ones holding the sledge hammer.  The mess and failures of this system belong to us.  It is not the state’s fault that the system is broken, it is the fault of the Christian church who handed it to her.

The government is not designed to raise children.  It is not designed to heal broken families.  So it should be no shock to us that it is not possible for the government to successfully play this role, no more than we would expect an elephant could climb a tree.  It is outside of its design, structure, and purpose.  The government plays this role not because it is best fitted for the job, but because it must.  It must protect its citizens and the most vulnerable of its people.  It must play this role, because the church has not.

The reality of this truth is painful.  The truth that our Lord and Savior tasked us with the care of the widow, the orphaned, and the oppressed.  The truth that the job of the foster care system was not intended for a government but for the Christian church and her people.  This fills me with so much shame as I look at the disaster it has become.  It is so terribly broken, Christian, and the blame belongs to us.

This conviction is not meant to chain us down with guilt.  It is meant to awaken us.  It should sting, but let that sting cause us to open our eyes!  We may have failed in the past.  We are definitely failing right now.  But praise God we do not have to keep on failing.  We need not stand in the refuse of the system and keep trudging forward.  We don’t have to come up with programs or funding and try to rebuild a broken building with broken bricks.  We are not a government or another human institution.  We are the people of a Holy Church and worship a Holy God.  The God who tasked us to care for the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed only asks that we step forward to do the job.  He is the one that will supply the tools, resources, and structure.  He is the one who will repair it, we need only show up to work.  Will you show up to work Christian?  Church, will you rise up and take back your job?

The question has been asked:  Why is the system broken?  And more importantly, can we fix it?  The system is broken because of us church, but praise God, Yes, it can be fixed!

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The Devastation of Separation

I attended a conference today.  The conference highlighted research by the ACE Study.  Before I get to the heart and soul of this post, let me just throw some fast facts your way.

In a nutshell, your ACE score is calculated by the various types of adverse childhood experiences encountered while growing up.  The score is not per incident, but per category.

If you’re feeling brave, have a moment of self-reflection and find out your score here.  The categories are:

  1. Recurrent physical abuse
  2. Recurrent emotional abuse
  3. Contact sexual abuse
  4. An alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household
  5. An incarcerated household member
  6. Someone who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal
  7. Mother is treated violently
  8. One or no parents
  9. Emotional or physical neglect

According to the Center for Disease Control, as your ACE score increases, your risk for the following health problems increase dramatically:

  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Depression
  • Fetal death
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Illicit drug use
  • Ischemic heart disease (IHD)
  • Liver disease
  • Risk for intimate partner violence
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Smoking
  • Suicide attempts
  • Unintended pregnancies
  • Early initiation of smoking
  • Early initiation of sexual activity
  • Adolescent pregnancy

As a worker in the social services, this research is of particular interest to me.  So as I sat and listened (getting totally bummed out b.t.w), I thought the information was fascinating, but now what?  How do I reduce these risks for people with high ACE scores?

The solution?  There really isn’t one.  Of course there were some panelists who gave great suggestions for our community and the legislators.  But the true reality that Dr. Vincent Felitti pointed out was that there has been no research conducted showing the efficacy of interventions on the health of those with high ACE scores……insert jaw drop here.

No one else on the panel wanted to touch that.  They politely interjected that there are great programs with great successes, but not ones that have been tested against this data.  (Enter moment of panic as I pictured the futures of my high-scoring loved ones).

Now it’s time to back up.  Programs are great.  Early intervention programs are critical.  Research is necessary.  But as Dr. Felitti pointed out, they’re not the cure.  And if we pretend they are, we are slapping a band-aid on a festering wound.

As a Christian in a secular culture, I have been very well indoctrinated that faith is to be kept separate from every other aspect of life.  Keep your faith out of school, government, health care, public opinion, and particularly research.  And as a student of history, I can point out many times when individuals have taken “faith” into these areas and run amuck with their personal agendas in the name of Christ.

But the devastation of this separation is band-aids for people in need of major surgery.  The gospel was not written for perfect, rich, individuals living in their castles.  The gospel was written for those individuals with high ACE scores.  It was written for the sick, for the dying, for the lost, for the lonely, for you, and for me (Matt. 9:12-13).

And the solution is not to create a “Christian” government or “Christian” programs, but rather for the church to rise up and share this truth with the people.  Rise up church.  Rise up Christian.  Because the reality is, if you know the truth about Jesus Christ, you have the truth that makes the power of an ACE score obsolete.

It is the power of Christ over sin.  Not only the power for you to overcome sin, but also to overcome the scars embedded by the sins of others.

Set that Truth free.  Don’t be afraid to share it.   Don’t separate it from the rest of your life.  The devastation of that separation is death, disease, and more devastation.  But the reality of the Truth is everlasting life and healing, in this life, or the next.

John 8:31-34

31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”’