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Writing for change

Crosscut contributor Judy Lightfoot. Credit: Credit: Robert McNamara

Researching Washington’s foster care system changed my sense of the territory, and I hope my stories brought about some changes in the way Crosscut readers view the subject. One story profiled the Mockingbird Family Model, a local innovation that has the potential to revolutionize a system in dire need of change — not only in our state but across the nation.

The Mockingbird model organizes foster homes into small clusters with a “hub home” at the center. Participating families learn parenting strategies from visiting professionals, share child-rearing challenges, take their children on group outings and get help navigating the complex foster care system. Foster parents in the hub model can also count on periods of respite when their child stays with the foster care expert who lives at the hub home, a person familiar to the child after frequent informal visits and social gatherings.

I appreciate the opportunity Crosscut gave me to learn and write about the Mockingbird Family Model, to share this novel approach with Puget Sound readers and, perhaps, to extend awareness of the program to other regions where it might be adopted and developed. Of course, writing about an idea can’t by itself launch a widespread movement. But raising the visibility of a foster care innovation that’s been quietly percolating at the edge of our attention gives more people a chance to consider its benefits and possibly work toward expanding its reach.

Crosscut helps raise awareness in this way by asking writers to seek out innovations like the Mockingbird Model and go beyond communicating “just the facts, ma’am.” We contributors are blessed with the space, time and editorial encouragement to provide context and meaning. And meaning is what sparks change — in people’s thinking.

We write for an audience that is open to expanding and redirecting its views. For readers who are willing to change their minds when logic and evidence prove persuasive. For citizens in search of arguments that are compelling enough to spur action. Action that can bring about  change.

The trajectory from writing to action is never direct. To paraphrase W. H. Auden (in his elegy for poet William Butler Yeats), writing "makes nothing happen.” But writing can prompt a change of mind, which can lead to changes that — in the case of the Mockingbird hub home model — greatly improve the lives of foster kids and parents.

When you become a Crosscut member or renew your membership, you are embracing a bright sense of possibility, of positive change, of new doors opened through innovation and invention in the community.

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