For the past 25-years, I have either advocated for children as a Marketplace leader or worked with Marketplace leaders to positively impact the lives of children, families, and communities. From my corporate career in banking and finance to my philanthropic engagement through community-based organizations, there has been one question that has always surfaced, “What should every child, in America, have access and opportunity too?”.
America has over 440,000 children in the child welfare system, better known as foster care, on any given day. These children represent the most vulnerable in our society. And the Marketplace can play a substantial role in the life of vulnerable children in American. The great South African leader Nelson Mandela, said it this way:
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than how it treats its children.”Nelson Mandela (May 8, 1995)
Many of my friends across the nation work in child welfare. They hold to this truth, “the best way to care for children, in need, is to stabilize the family that the child is already a part of.” Seeking preventative measures to meet the needs of the families, prior to the child being removed from the home, is a hopeful solution to slow the flow of children into the system.
When a child is removed from the biological home, the support need for the child continues. The foster, adoptive, or kinship family may need the same preventive support as the biological family. The State assumes the cost of providing that support. In 2018, the Administrations Title IV-E foster care maintenance and administrative costs were $5.278 Billion.
If we are willing to assist a child, indeed, that commitment should extend to the parents of that child. As citizens, we all have a responsibility to be active Community Leaders, which includes Marketplace leaders.
Stability for Families
During my time in banking and finance, corporate leadership would often equate the corporate staff team as being family. That the corporate vision, while providing excellent service to our clients, was to care for the people we work with. To provide stability for nuclear families by providing a living wage that will stabilize the families’ housing, provisions, education, and other goals to live prosperously—an admirable goal for any corporation.
Abuse and abandonment aren’t the leading reason for child removal. Neglect, which masks itself as poverty, is the leading indicator for a child entering the system. According to the Anne E. Casey Foundation, 60% of the children entering the child welfare system is due to neglect.
It makes one think that if every American had access to employment that provided a living wage, to stabilize their family, what would our society look like. Those are extrapolations that are best saved for another article. Still, we can say that the Marketplace is the pillar of society that provides stability for families in a physical needs sense.
Public and Private partnerships are needed for employment programs. Ones that will provide the living wage that high-risk families need to better care for their children. Whether you lean to the side of Prevention or Protection, prioritizing support to preserve the family, as the best way to care for a child, should be on our collective national conscience.
Care for the Least of These
For the faith-community of Christians, the Bible is written in this context of community. Matthew 25 admonishes us to care for the “least of these” and that “…true and undefiled religion, in the sight of God, is to care for widows and orphans” James 1:27.
Church pews, across America, are filled with the Marketplace workforce. People who, through taxpayer dollars, resource the needs of the child welfare system. If the Christian Marketplace leader would consider themselves the thought leaders for change in the system and meeting family needs, the child welfare system could be drastically changed. The great evangelist Billy Graham, in the early 2000s, expressed this sentiment:
“I believe that one of the next great moves of God is going to be through the believers in the workplace (marketplace).Billy Graham
So, how does that speak to the Christian in the Marketplace and our responsibility for vulnerable children?
As a boy, I remember my dad building our house. My dad owned a small construction company with his business partner. It wasn’t too long ago that neighbors would share in building their own homes. They were growing their gardens together. Making their clothes or handing them down.
Though I never enjoyed wearing my cousin’s hand-me-down clothing, I did appreciate the value of community and sharing.
We were more interdependent on our neighbors in crisis than the government. Where do families seek assistance in society today?
Social ethics (conscience) could and should be in both the secular and faith communities. There is a wheat and tares effect here. We all have a responsibility as citizens to positively impact our communities through holistic solutions. For the Christian Marketplace leaders, we should be leading the equity movement. We should be sharing our provision and access with those most in need.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) comes to mind. It wasn’t the religious leaders who were neighborly. It was the Samaritan who gave of his wealth and risked engagement to get his hands dirty. This Marketplace traveler shared resources. Even expressed, “if the cost exceeds what I have given you, I will repay you upon my return.”
I was recently speaking with one such, Marketplace leader about her commitment to be a good neighbor through her national company. It’s a great example of the Marketplace providing national retail access to stabilize families. Her company offers wholesale discounts on mattresses and bedding to any family in the continuum of care of foster care and adoption. When I asked what drives her to provide these opportunities through her work, she shared, “my heart goes out to these children.” I’m a foster and adoptive parent, and I know the challenges.”
Love Your Neighbor
Access to opportunity is a crucial element here in Marketplace leadership. Corporate staff development plans often include volunteerism and board responsibilities with local charities. In these roles, Marketplace leaders leverage their capacity building skills and intellectual capacity for the benefit of the child, family, and community.
Honestly, the list is extensive and debatable to what is the most equitable path to meeting the needs of children and families, but this is less of the question of a right and more of an individual heart question. Jesus addressed this well in Matthew 22:39, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Marketplace leaders have a great sense of stewardship when accessing the resources for maximum return on investment. Marketplace Leaders can assist NFP/NGOs and government ineffectiveness and efficiency. I employ the Marketplace leader in providing positive exposure opportunities, equal access, and experiences for children and families through your Marketplace leadership.
Access and Opportunity
Every child should have access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that America aspires to. In the faith-community, we call that stability the family. We need to focus on the family. In the Marketplace that stability presents as access and opportunity. Marketplace Leaders can make a change for vulnerable children in access and opportunity.