Fixing Society: one kid, one adult at a time

Matt Shaughnessy is passionate about seeing change come to the Child Protection System because he lived in it most of his life.

I’ve been mulling this over since 2004 when I visited San Quentin with my peers in Ag Leadership’s Class 34. While there I learned that attachment issues are common among most of the prison population. It was a big weekend that changed my life forever because it set me on a path of self-realization and healing. I learned I have attachment issues too.

From serial killers to thieves, drunk drivers, and boys and girls-next-door, failure to establish a meaningful relationship with a caregiver as a child creates many, many problems for a person and those around him: chief among them the inability to maintain relationships later in life.

The term used to describe such children and adults is “insecurely attached”. And did you know, researchers believe over 50% of Americans are insecurely attached to some degree. Some of you, perhaps.

After San Quentin, I became convinced that if we got serious about intervention – treating already damaged children – and prevention – helping damaged parents heal and learn to attach with their children – we would be well on our way to fixing society one person at a time. I’ve been jiggling doors to find a solution ever since.

Remember that video I shared on homelessness in Seattle? Senator Mary Souza told me an expert testified before the Health and Welfare Committee, speaking to a connection between the insecurely attached and addiction. What if that’s a major piece of fixing that?

Last year the Legislature approved the establishment of six regional Citizen Review Panels across the state. I was fortunate to be appointed to the District 4 Panel. Our job is to examine open Child Protection System cases to identify trends negatively impacting the foster child experience and report our findings to a joint legislative committee interested in fixing things.

It’s not a fun task. I frequently ask myself, how can people live this way? How can they do these things to children? Indeed.

The things we learn about the lives of these kids are disturbing and depressing, but many times adults treat children the way they were treated. So fixing things demands a two-pronged approach: prevention and intervention.

We are willing to serve on the Panel because we are determined to change things, to level the playing field for these kids, and adults too while we’re at it.

Today the Panel heard from Matt Shaughnessy. I want you to hear Matt too. He spoke for a half an hour about his experience in the foster care system. He talked about the devastating impacts of being abandoned and shuttled through multiple placements. He has some good ideas for breaking the cycle. I can’t thank him enough for sharing with us.

If you never watch another video I share, if you never read another post, please, please watch this one.

We’re raising generations of kids who have no empathy, no love, no ability to be productive members of society. They need our help and at least 50% of us need help too.

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I like going places: out West, west of the West, and all the way around the back of the globe to the East. I like to go by train, plane, automobile, horseback. Whatever. And I like writing about what I see, feel, hear, smell, and touch all along the way and once I get there.

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