Well, not really, he's filing for a child support modification. However, when I looked at the numbers, I came to the conclusion not to fight it. It doesn't change that much, and after all of the years of conflict and continuing conflict, I'm deciding to pick my battles and this isn’t one worth fighting.
My workplace, however, has handed up a different dilemna and that is the space that is difficult to navigate lately. There are too many cooks in the kitchen. It is a difficult project and I think it's one where everyone at the table actually wants to “help,” it’s just there’s so many different ways to go about it and no one can trust each other, etc.
I have a funny feeling in my stomach. I think I need to come to the conclusion in this conversation to also step back and not “do battle.” I think my job is to make sure everyone’s voices can be heard. Even the ones that I don’t agree with.
There is a player at the top who is the one who for the last nine months took a back seat and let the “committee” do the work that they said they would do. It involved going out into the community and speaking with clients, providers, the public, in an effort to understand their experience of “accessing justice” as a way to understand how and where the challenges may be, and look for common themes in those challenges and as those themes emerged, try and figure out how we could put together a plan to meet those challenges.
Can we solve everyone’s justice issue? Not at the moment, but can we try and make it a safer, easier, more understandable process? That was our hope, at least my hope at the beginning of this process. The stories people shared were amazingly truthful to their experiences, authentic, heartfelt. No, people are not accessing justice, people feel afraid, marginalized, and re-victimized by the court process, and that’s just if they get to court in the first place. Lack of information abounds, people ‘give up.’ It’s quite a bleak picture.
However, one of the silver linings to this conversation is that while it is so very bleak in terms of current experiences, there are so many people who want to help. People who have nothing to do with the courthouses or legal services, people who are part of community health centers, or social services providers, or homeless service providers, and more, like the YWCA. If we could link together and create a network of information (and correct information) and also shepherd people through the process (rather than leading them to a web site and waving goodbye and wishing them luck), maybe we could make the process of “accessing” justice just a little bit easier.
So what’s the problem? There are some blinders on in terms of those who do not want to hear that the justice system is lacking in its ability to provide help—that it is not people-centered and that people are afraid. There is a difficulty in the self-awareness and reflection piece that perhaps some of the way we have been handling these issues is not working, and it’s time to think about re-designing (yes, change is scary).
And the same people wearing the blinders are the ones who have started to make decisions independently, and who cannot hear criticism and who cannot understand that identifying a huge problem that appears not to be able to be fixed right away is okay, in fact was expected of us in launching into this project.
I’m concerned that in an effort to go straight to solution in an effort to “just get the report written already,” voices will be lost—not only the voices of the users that we were so careful and respectfully committed in learning from, but also the provider voices who are the ones carrying out the brunt of the work and any initiatives to help.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been running interference, seeing if I can preserve the voices and the integrity of the project. I’m thinking maybe it’s time to step back, take a deep breath, and just let it go and leave the process to what it is. Does that mean the bully wins? Maybe.
Aha, and that may be why I’m struggling so hard. I see someone strong-arming and bullying their way through in the guise of using the “committee”—when actually it’s not a committee at all, it’s one person being a bit of a bully. Who perhaps has good intentions, but the process of doing so breeds mistrust, marginalization, silencing of others.
I understand the need to “get it done,” but aren’t we supposed to ensure we have all voices at the table? How can we have a successful, “finished” product, if we lose people along the way, especially the ones who are given the responsibility to carry this forward?
And does coming to the end product at the expense of losing people along the way make for good politics? I do not think so, and it does not make me proud to be part of this project anymore.
It reminds me of someone who used to bully and silence myself and endanger my daughters and perhaps that’s why I’m so upset of late.
Take a deep breath, step back. My job is not to fix the bully. My job is to do my best to influence the process to preserve the voices of the people I care about. I may not win, and that’s okay, it’s not about winning, it’s about living with dignity and doing the right thing.