The other day all the housedads had to pick up leaves around campus to get ready for our Annual Open House that evening. It was while picking up leaves that I saw a parallel to what we do working with troubled children. Let me set the scene:
We had two crews of housedads working. One crew was made up of 3 housedads and the other crew was me and another housedad. Both crews were using pick-up trucks of the same size. The crew with three housedads were using leaf rakes and wide pitch fork type tools to put the leaves in the back of the pick-up. Though the housedads were working together, they were all working independently with their own tool, scooping up leaves and then carrying them over to the pick-up and putting them in. When the pick-up was full they would drive down to the pasture and each would use their own tool and push the leaves out of the back of the pick-up until it was empty.
The housedad that was working with me and I took a totally different approach. The first thing that we did was place a large tarp inside the bed of the pick-up as a liner. We tucked the edge of the tarp in the holes in the top of the bed to hold it in place. We then took a smaller tarp and placed it on the ground next to our leaf pile. Each of us would stand on opposite corners of the tarp and use our leaf rakes to pull leaves onto the tarp. When the small tarp was full we would each grab two corners, and together carry the tarp over to the pick-up and together dump it into the back. When the pick-up was full we would drive down to the pasture and each of us would grab a corner of the larger tarp and pull it onto the ground with the leaves in it. When the load was on the ground we would roll the leaves off the tarp by lifting one edge together and then start the process all over again.
Using our process, we were making three trips to the pasture for every one of theirs, yet if we had not been working together as a team and using the same tools our method would have not worked at all. Seeing the success we were having with our method didn’t inspire the other crew to start doing it our way and our method seemed like less physical work to us so we weren’t bothered that we were moving three times the leaves.
The parallel that I see with residential childcare is this: We can all be doing our own thing, using our own methods and not really worrying about how others are doing it. Not really worrying about what the administration or treatment team wants or empowering relief staff to continue what we are doing in our house or program. Not take into consideration the parents of the children, the schools, or numerous other people involved with the children we care for and still accomplish the task of caring for children.
We can work together as a team – using the same tools. Consult with administration and treatment teams. Work with the parents and schools and counselors and pastors and others to come up with a plan with each person executing their part. When we do this, I think we will really be able to accomplish something in the lives of the children we care for.
I hope you see what I am saying. If not – I hope you discovered an easier way to move leaves.