We are pleased to share another post of Michael Piraino’s reflections from his week in Washington, D.C.
The morning starts with a conversation with a volunteer who made the rounds of her congressional representatives’ offices all day yesterday. She is amazed at how open things are here. Once past security, you can just show up at an office and talk to someone. The right of the people to petition their government; it works.
By noon, I have had four separate conversations with four different groups of staff at the United States Department of Justice—at the offices for Victims of Crime, Violence Against Women, and Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
In one meeting, it takes less than five minutes before the conversation turns from funding to more direct issues about child welfare: issues of equity for children of color in child welfare systems; how to ensure that victims of domestic violence do not unnecessarily lose their children; and recent research on how to help at-risk youth succeed. We are getting into the day-to-day realities of child welfare. The federal government’s financial woes are only background noise.
The Department’s effort on behalf of crime victims; that works too.
Walking to my next appointments in the Senate Office Buildings, I pass the Department of Labor on my right and the John L. Young Women’s Center, which provides emergency services to homeless women, across the street on my left. The contrast strikes me: on one side, the government agency that works to keep our economy running and helps ensure that anyone who wants to find work can do that. On the other side, those being left behind by an economy still struggling through its recovery.
Next, meetings in the offices of Senators Charles Grassley and Mary Landrieu, who co-chair the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth. Last year, these two Senators released a heartfelt Call to Action calling for a wealth of improvements to the child welfare system. We speak of the importance of communities coming together to support young people in care. That works too.
Leaving the building, I pass a security checkpoint and turn to thank the security officers for doing a good job for us, keeping us safe.
So many compassionate and thoughtful people doing important work. It’s easy to talk about government as a big, faceless, unstoppable force. But the men and women I met in DC are the faces of government working on behalf of the nation’s abused and neglected children. Looking after the well-being of those children is a fundamental obligation of both citizens and our government. I hope they can keep meeting that obligation.