Head and Heart

What does one do when Purpose and Values seem to conflict? We have one such dilemma at the moment.

We value relationships. Extending from this, relationships with clients and families are at the center of all that we do. What would be the point, if we weren't about building and sustaining long, healthy, productive relationships? Way back when GSL first started, this was one of those implicit values. It seemed so obvious, it was never explicitly stated as a value. It's tricky because we do share a financial, or transactional relationship with some families, but, to be clear, the type of relationship I am speaking about here is what happens in our day-to-day work. I'm talking about relationships that form around understanding, trust, respect, compassion, empathy, vision, partnership, grace and forgiveness.

I remember a conversation with Trudy (who leads our Base Program) a number of years back. The context of the conversation was around asking if Trudy was interested in replacing Rudolf as program lead. It wasn't because of the job that Trudy accepted: 'I love my job and the program, but that's not it, I'm in love with them all'.

All relationships begin with a form of love. That of friends, lovers, family, etc. You can’t get around that. Love leads you to care. To be there, cry with others, laugh with others, and desire to share the best of yourself with others.

- Jessica Valdez

The value of a long term relationship is cherished dearly. To look at some of our clients who came as children and now are school leavers is remarkable. They've grown up before our very eyes! We are not perfect in our relationships, nor are we 'fair weather friends' - there's been ups and downs, there's been separation and reunions, there's been all the normal interactions that come with sharing a relationship.

This being said, when we turn to our Purpose it feels there's a conflict. We are fundamentally a service for children and young people, but what do we do when they grow up?

Before answering this question, let's go back to the meaning of 'a good start to life'. The original intention behind this little phrase was that we would engage with families early and that we could be the help they need along the way. The assumption was that a good upbringing produces a healthy, well-adjusted adult ready to take on their adult world. We would be there for childhood and say farewell to adults.

Stepping back a minute, even further, I have to explain where we find ourselves in 2019, compared to our Purpose. The assumption at GSL's conception was that we would be an early intervention service and grow with children and families. Reality took us on a different journey. In a market that reliably released new grant funds every year for school leavers, our survival took us to this market. Similarly we found ourselves responding to a market of providing safe and nurturing homes to children and young people. In summary, our growth was market directed into crisis response.

Now we operate in an NIDS world which opens opportunity for us to engage with younger age groups, and their families. While this is true, and provides strategic direction for our growth, what is our position when children become adults? When do we say good-bye? Should we say good-bye? Can we identify with being an early intervention service when our 20 year old becomes a 30 year old and then heads to 40?

As our existing relationships mature, when do we say we don't form new ones? If we are providing supports and services for adults we've known for a long time, do we open our age criteria? Doesn't that then blur our core Purpose?

These are all good questions and I know they stem from head and heart conflict. I'm interested to see what our team will decide.

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