Since moving to New York, I have had the distinct privilege of getting to know Charyl Gerring, Affiliate Assistant Professor, University of Washington, Graduate School of Social Work. Our relationship began when she asked me to help her learn to use her computer. (She's in her 80's, and like most people of her generation, she grew up in a world where people did not rely on computers like we do today.)
Over the years, I have grown very fond of Charyl and strongly believe that her work has the potential to help children in foster care to grow up without much of the psychological damage that the current system causes. Her idea is simple: keep the birth family involved. She has told me stories about birth families and foster families coming together to create an extended family in which the children thrive. Unfortunately, the system is resistant to change, so much so that they are unable to see the potential of something so simple.
Sadly, Charyl is fighting breast cancer for the second time in her life. She tells me that she may only have months to live, but I'm a bit more optimistic. (I've been watching her heal since her surgery and I am amazed. My 34-year-old body takes longer to heal a pimple!) My greatest fear is that her ideas will pass with her and the children will suffer for it.
Charyl has been published, so the word is out there, but the system is still reluctant to change. My hope is that, in the remaining time that we have with her, she will be able to break through the resistance and inspire a change that will benefit all of the children, present and future, in the foster care system.