It has been made appallingly clear, both through the research and through day-to-day exposure to the media, that if we are to turn the tide for children who are in cognitive, emotional, and/or physical danger in the U.S., we must first create a community of adults who care more about the future of our children and communities and less about turf and territorial controls. We must create community engagement.

To do this, let us look at creating true community through the process of engagement. The concept of engagement leaves us a lot to ponder. It bids us to make a shift of consciousness that may not always be comfortable. It bids us to step outside of what has become a familiar structure and move into an open and vulnerable position. Engagement asks us not only to care about children, but to communicate with, learn more about, and actually care about professional peers, parents, and others. We must do this from outside our usual frame of reference and look, perhaps, through a new lens.

I have had the privilege of facilitating such engagement in communities and watching as individuals from many disciplines come together in one room with one goal. By focusing only on the overall wellbeing of children in their communities, they opened doors and windows of communication never before opened due to those heinous turf issues that hinder growth and positive change. The results have been dynamic both for children and communities as a whole.

This process of engagement took time because it is based on the formation of positive, real relationships. It is based on that shift of consciousness—at times uncomfortable—mentioned above. It is based on what people can do for children and community rather than what they cannot do. It is based on the hope that things can be better and that engagement can make them so.

What makes creating community through engagement such an inaccessible action? What makes that shift of consciousness such a difficult step to take? Share with me.

About the author:  Heatherly Conway, Ed.D. is an author, speaker, educator, social worker, and award winning consultant for her work on Collaboration for Kids. For more than 30 years she has passionately promoted the rights of children to be safe, nurtured, loved, and educated. Her mission is to bring community professionals together in healthy, collaborative efforts to address the very real issues of children and their families.