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Whatever happened to the Federation’s role as David in the biblical tale of David and Goliath?

September 22, 2015


Morning Zen Guest Blog Post – Dixie Jordan ~

When someone shines a spotlight on a clandestine affair, does our silence become voyeurism? Are we sideline participants – part of a newly created menage a trois that relies on all partners to support the new status quo? Do we then all share equally in the blame for what has become of the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health?

I watched the indiscreet descent of our Federation from a robust, raw, angry, intense and utterly dedicated culturally pluralistic gathering of parents and family members to a meeting of largely “professionalized parents” who, despite their many strengths and skills have been molded to become part of the system itself. This is not what any of us envisioned!

Trepidation over continuing funding for the Federation led us onto a dance floor where we not only had to follow the lead of our funders, but pretend that we liked it.

Whatever happened to our role as David in the biblical tale of David and Goliath? We were small and without great weaponry, but we had right on our side and on the job learning about how to bring down a non-system of services for our children. Once we were expected to become more “professionalized,” we were assigned a new and potentially equally important role – to carve up the beast from the inside. It was to be our responsibility to identify gaps in services and to build support for all families to place demands on the system so that it could become more responsive. Of course we were to be unfettered, and our voices, however strident, were to be honored. Is that not why parents were hired in the first place? There is an enormous disconnect between our one-time expectations and the reality of today.

Who do we blame? Funders, who knew from the outset that who controls the money controls those who receive it? The Federation, that spent countless hours chasing the dime, redefining their expectations of and for families and handholding with the bureaucracy to sustain itself? Or ourselves, that we believed the exhortations that becoming part of an impersonal and largely intractable service system whose movement was as slow as molasses in January was the only way that the voices of parents would be heard?

When I expressed disagreement with the direction of the Federation, not because I felt that “training” parents was a bad idea, but because I feared that ultimately, a paycheck has immense power over one’s voice, the notion was pooh-poohed by both Federation leadership and by funders. I am hardly surprised but greatly dismayed by what has become of an organization to which I dedicated years of my life and all of my trust. Something MUST be done so that families once again receive the support and education they need to ensure the best services for their child.

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dixieDixie Jordan is one of the nations foremost experts in understanding the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). She has developed a practical training that offers specific techniques for developing positive Individualized Education Plans for children and youth with mental health needs that is used throughout the United States. Dixie has been involved with the National Federation for over twenty years, having served on the Board of Directors as well as having provided countless hours of individualized consultation on IDEA for parents attending the annual national conference.

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