To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, nearly 200 people packed an auditorium at Simmons College School of Social Work for a special event last week to launch the 3rd edition of their free online domestic violence training course. FFI’s Anna Melbin participated in a panel with other leaders in the Massachusetts domestic violence field, who were each asked to share their unique perspective on the past, present and future of the field. Anna talked about FFI’s work to increase access to wellbeing for people who experience violence, and specifically about our multi-year project in California that was focused on understanding how people who experience violence define success for themselves in their lives. The project illustrates what she’s believed since she started work in the DV field: that people—whether using or victimized by violence—are more the same than different and wellbeing, not just safety, is the key to long-term healing and hope. Anna pointed out that the mainstream DV field has historically shied away from work to truly understand what is driving violent behavior and the contexts in which it occurs, fearing that it could be perceived as excusing violence and not prioritizing accountability. Looking ahead to the future of the field, she called for change: “We’re not well practiced in holding the gray areas, and it’s limited our field of vision and possibilities for change. I believe that we’re well past due to interrupt this historical perspective; if we don’t, cycles of violence will continue, deepening the divide and the oppression and marginalization of the most vulnerable.”
On the 4th of July this year the United States celebrated its 241st year of independence from the British Commonwealth. For some communities in the United States this “birthday” celebration is an annual (sometimes painful) reminder that people have been resisting subjugation and fighting for freedom since colonizers arrived in the Americas. Independence Day in the United States is also a reminder to some individuals that there is a profound difference between the ideals of freedom and equity, which are central components of the American Dream, and their lived experience.
The Ford Foundation has been “talking and thinking a lot about how inequality affects our ability to achieve the fabled American Dream: the idea that if you work hard and play by the rules then you should be able to get ahead.” The American Dream is a fable for some populations of people in the United States, particularly Native Americans and Black people, because no amount of hard work has ever been enough and the rules for upward mobility have changed constantly. In effort to “jump-start honest discussions about the role of inequality and opportunity in our lives,” the Ford Foundation, in partnership with Moving Up, developed a “tool that aims to help us examine the many experiences, systems, and institutions that have helped—or hindered—our path to where we are today.” Moving Up is an initiative “based on the premise that if we want to engage people on the issues like poverty, inequality and opportunity, then we must find new ways to bring them into the conversation.” Based on a series of questions about who you are, your parents, where you grew up, your childhood, your health, your education, your luck, your friends, your use and access to public services, your character and your effort, the tool, a calculator of the aforementioned factors, produces an American Dream Score.
My American Dream Score is 74/100. The message with my score stated that, “while hard work contributes to success, each of us have encountered different people, experiences, systems, and services that have helped or hindered our efforts. Your score of 74 means you’ve had some factors working for you, but more that you’ve had to work to overcome.” As for how my score compared to the range of scores, a score of 53 or less means that “nearly every factor has been working in your favor. If your score is 54-65 then the majority of factors have been in your favor. If your score is 66-79 then you’ve had more working against you than for you. If your score is 80 or higher then almost every factor has been working against you.”
The tool identified factors that helped me “move up,” including that I was “able to tap into a strong social network, grew up in place great for raising kids;” had “access to a good education;” was “bless[ed] by some good fortune;” and “benefited from public goods and services.” I have a lot of questions about the evidence and validity of the algorithm the tool is predicated on. Despite my questions, one of the factors in the calculation, “where you grew up,” included reference to research by Raj Chetty and his Equality of Opportunity Project. This factor is of particular interest to me as a student of the relationship between physical space and power. Chetty “has identified five factors that are correlated to neighborhoods that promote upward mobility: two parent households, good schools, high social capital, and low segregation and inequity.” Patriots fighting in the American War of Independence understood that freedom is linked to land. That link has not changed, which is why neighborhood (i.e., residential location) matters. In a blog I wrote earlier this year, Marching Peacefully Towards Being More Separate and More Unequal?, I discusses the importance of understanding how individual decisions about residential location affects inequality.
The tool also identified the factors I worked to overcome as: “the economy wasn’t as strong when you entered the job market, needed to develop strong character traits to cope, your parents may have struggled to give you all you needed, had to deal with some tough things as a kid, experienced some health issues, had to work harder than most, some may have held your race against you, you were more likely to be discriminated against based on gender.” The authors state that the calculator does not weigh any one factor more than the other and argue that “while research generally shows that some factors correlate more to success than others, that doesn’t mean they were more important to you personally.” While there are likely others, a critical factor not accounted for in the calculation is the ability for one to be able to be one’s authentic self as a (im)mobility factor. Equity cannot be achieved without inclusivity; inclusivity cannot be achieved without authenticity. Being able to be one’s authentic self is not a factor one can work to overcome. What one often does is suppress their authentic self after considering the tradeoffs (i.e. weighing the cost and benefits) of being one’s authentic self. I am constantly making decisions about where and how to show up in places and spaces. Sometimes I choose to show up just as Dr. Green, which pays into the politic of credential capital, and sometimes I show up as La Tonya, which to some immediately signals that I am a Black woman possibly with a certain political leaning. While this suppression of authentic self is probably not a mental or spiritual tax individuals in the dominant culture and/or in certain contexts pay, suppressing my authentic self is a strategy I employ often as I try determine how to live free; being upwardly mobile and pursuing the American Dream is a luxury until equity is achieved.
Advancing equity requires understanding how power is distributed and maintained; it also requires addressing the impact of power inequities. Equity is one part of economic, political, racial, and social justice. The United States has never had equity and we do not have a shared vision of concrete outcomes. In order to create a shared vision we must be willing to talk openly not only about race–including having honest dialogue about attitudes, culture, false and singular narratives, policies, practices, and procedures that reinforce differential outcomes or fail to eliminate them–but also how all individuals can participate and prosper in this country to the best of their ability regardless of ability, economic class, geographic location, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Advancing equity is not a destination, a fable, or a dream. We can create a fair inclusion country, and world, where we can truly live our dreams. In order to build that society, we must be willing to both share our individual and collective stories authentically and to listen deeply to each other’s individual and collective stories without gaslighting, the doubting or questioning of one’s experience, memory, or perception. If you are uncertain exactly where to begin, begin with the Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America website; you can utilize the tool, post your score, share your story, and read other people’s story. Utilizing our individual American Dream Score could be a provocative (or safe) jumping-off point or subject matter to continue to have honest conversations about the role of inequality and opportunity in our lives and communities.
La Tonya Green, PhD is FFI’s Director of Evidence and Knowledge. She is responsible for generating knowledge and evidence about the applicability and effectiveness of the Full Frame Approach and the Five Domains of Wellbeing. La Tonya is heading up FFI’s race and equity initiatives.
Throughout our deep partnership with Missouri Division of Youth Services, the Five Domains of Wellbeing has become more and more embedded in the state’s juvenile justice system and is supporting youth in successfully transitioning back into the community and making sustainable, positive change. FFI collaborated with DYS to develop The Five Domains of Wellbeing for Youth and Youth Involved in the Juvenile Justice System, a new resource for anyone engaging with and advocating for these youth, with specific guidance for juvenile justice staff who wish to reinforce existing and develop new practices and systems that support wellbeing.
For the last 18 months FFI has been engaged with four project partners and three California community-based teams in a collaborative initiative to apply asset-based strategies in addressing multiple forms of violence and oppression. Throughout the project, partners and teams explored what it really takes to move away from a problem-defined, deficit-based approach in order to improve access to wellbeing for the people, families and communities living through violence and oppression. This project summary shares the asset-based methodologies that were explored and lessons learned throughout the project.
In conjunction with the winter Synergy publication featuring the work of FFI and its partner Missouri Children’s Division, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’s Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody is hosting a webinar this week on Wednesday, May 18th, at 3pm EST. It is free to attend and the registration is open now! See the full webinar description and registration link below.
Wellbeing, the Missing Piece of the Safety & Permanency Puzzle: A Different Approach from Missouri Children’s Division
Presenters: Tim Decker, Director, Missouri Children’s Division and Katya Fels Smyth, CEO, the Full Frame Initiative
Date: May 18, 2016
Time: 12:00pm PT, 1:00pm MT, 2:00pm CT, 3:00pm ET
Duration: 90 minutes
In 2014, Missouri Children’s Division began a system transformation to improve outcomes. A key strategy is considering not just safety but wellbeing from the first contact with a family. To support this effort, the agency has adopted the Five Domains of Wellbeing as the foundation of its philosophy and practice. On this webinar, the Director of Missouri Children’s Division and the CEO of the Full Frame Initiative will offer an overview of the Five Domains of Wellbeing framework, provide examples of how it is being applied in Missouri’s child welfare system, share preliminary observations and findings, as well as plans for the future, and discuss implications of this shift for families, workers, and partner agencies. The webinar will also include a discussion of the key factors in making the Children’s Division/Full Frame Initiative partnership robust, productive, and sustainable.
If you haven’t already, be sure to download the Synergy Winter, 2016 issue to read the related article “Wellbeing, the Missing Piece of the Safety and Permanency Puzzle: A New Approach from Children’s Division,” as well as other articles featuring FFI and our partners.
For more information or questions, please contact Alicia Lord at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our first newsletter in 2016 highlights what happens when you start from what’s going well in order to support lasting community transformation. Read it here to learn about our new toolkit for philanthropy, find exciting updates about the project in California, meet our newest superstar team members and more!
We are delighted to announce the release of SHIFT: FROM SHORT-TERM CHANGE TO LASTING WELLBEING THROUGH THE FULL FRAME APPROACH A toolkit to help the philanthropic community support transformative practice.
This toolkit was developed for the philanthropic community and other stakeholders interested in supporting long-term, sustainable change for people living at the intersection of poverty, violence, trauma and oppression.
An increasing number of organizations are moving beyond short-term fixes to support wellbeing by applying the Full Frame Approach. The Full Frame Approach is a way of working with people facing multiple challenges that supports them in the full frame of their lives, recognizing that people who face complex problems need support as multi-faceted as the lives they lead. Through the Full Frame Approach, programs attend to the Five Domains of Wellbeing—social connectedness, safety, stability, mastery and meaningful access to relevant resources—while minimizing the tradeoffs that come with change.
By focusing on whole people and wellbeing—not discrete problems—programs that take the Full Frame Approach are able to support deep and lasting change, even for people and families who have been previously involved in systems and services for years.
- Learn more about the Full Frame Approach, and how it supports wellbeing and lasting change
- Identify Full Frame Approach indicators in practice, through case examples
- Find concrete tips and actionable steps for supporting the Full Frame Approach
- Reference sample grant guidelines, application questions and grantee reports
FFI created this resource through a collaborative effort with our partners in philanthropy and with four exemplary community-based nonprofit organizations in Greater Boston—Julie’s Family Learning Program (South Boston), On The Rise (Cambridge), REACH Beyond Domestic Violence (Waltham) and The Salasin Center of Western Massachusetts Training Consortium (Greenfield).
The goal of the toolkit is to inspire a meaningful transformation in the way in which human service programs operate and are supported so that many more people and communities facing multiple challenges can break cycles of poverty, violence, trauma and oppression. We hope you find it thought-provoking and inspiring in our shared goal to successfully address the entrenched social problems that prevent people living at the margins from achieving their full potential and wellbeing.
We welcome your feedback on the toolkit and invite you to continue the conversation with the Full Frame Initiative by sharing your insights, expertise and questions. Let us know your thoughts and reactions, and how you plan to use this toolkit to support this transformative practice.
For more information, please contact:
Anna Melbin, Director of Strategic Capacity Building
- the Missouri Children’s Division-FFI partnership that is using the Five Domains of Wellbeing as the foundation of the state’s child welfare system reform effort
- the findings of FFI’s three-year project in California to document how different stakeholders understand success for survivors of domestic violence
Recently, the Full Frame Initiative held a day-long training in St. Louis City with Court personnel, Division of Youth Services staff and Children’s Division staff. The training covered several topics, such as an overview of the Five Domains of Wellbeing, understanding tradeoffs and reviewing a court case. One of the other topics explored in the training was natural community supports. Each group was given a St. Louis City Neighborhood and asked to identify the actual name of community members from the mail carrier to the middle school teacher. Participants were not allowed to Google information but only use personal connections. The activity was a powerful way to solidify the importance of natural community supports.
Take a minute to listen to a group of 5th graders who wrote an article titled “You Really Don’t Know Us,” about their community. It is extremely powerful to hear from the youth about their community. Think about the neighborhood you work in, what are the natural supports in your community? Think beyond paid services because most paid providers will not be in the family’s life after the intervention. Think about who can help the family to make change that lasts.
Written by Carla Gilzow, Quality Assurance Unit Manager with Missouri Children’s Division.