I run a nonprofit law firm, Dependency Legal Services, that represents parents and children in child welfare cases in six Northern California counties. I first came across Rise at the American Bar Association conference for parent attorneys.
In a variety of ways, Rise is the right tool for the job.
One thing we are all learning about child welfare is that one of the biggest problems parents deal with is isolation. When I have a parent client who is isolated or down about something, and saying, “Nobody understands my situation,” or, “I’m frustrated,” that’s a red flag for me that triggers: “Rise!”
“Have you seen this magazine?” I’ll say. I’ll pull up the website on my laptop and turn it to face my client. “This is written by parents who have been in your shoes.” For parents at those moments, Rise is invigorating and inspiring.
I also use Rise in training for lawyers, judges and social workers. I tell people, “You have to really spend time on the website and familiarize yourself with the entire scope of what Rise offers. Rise has parents dealing with substance abuse, DV, visitation, working with their lawyer. When you really know the stories, then you will know what to pull out of that toolbox.”
When you have a teenager tell you, “My mom doesn’t care about me,” you can say, “Hold on, have you seen this story?” There are stories that can help teens understand their parents, or lawyers understand their clients.
There’s a phrase – “People don’t change in systems, people change in relationships.” What Rise does is forge relationships. Through the stories, a parent can have a relationship with a writer in the Bronx that is experiencing the same things as she is in Eureka, Calif. If parents feel heard then parents are going to feel better, and get healthier, and kids will go home.
Rise also allows for those working in the field to see that it’s relationships that make the difference. The stories show that it’s not “go to your class and get your certificates” that matters. Parents need to go to the class to get connected and meet people who can support them in their journey.
I’ve been lucky to teach all around the country and there’s truly nothing like Rise. When I share Rise, the feedback is always positive. The most common phrase I hear is, “Wow, this is great!” Usually that’s followed by “I had no idea this was out there.” Rise is a tool that’s so necessary to understanding child welfare. Everyone who touches child welfare—foster parents, judges, parents, children, lawyers, church leaders, and even newspaper reporters—needs to understand who parents are.
Child welfare is a young field. We’re still learning to do it well, and nobody does it well. One part of that is that we don’t know enough We just don’t. By bringing parents’ narratives into focus, Rise is an aid to the evolution of this field.