August represents the end of summer “vacation” for children and youth as they return to school. I believe it is very important to reflect upon the role of education in our society within the context of the children and youth that we serve. Good educational opportunities which educate, build self-esteem, develop marketable skills and incorporate key societal values are in reality one of the few pathways for upward mobility and escape from poverty.

In recent years, as part of our sustainable-funding initiative, I often have opportunity to speak of my vision for the agency. For me, the bottom line is always helping the people we serve develop to their potential, which is often achieved by providing educational opportunities commensurate with abilities, as well as removing social barriers, including injustices.

When I began my social work career as a public-assistance worker for the Iowa Department of Social Welfare, the book, “Common Human Needs,” by Charlotte Towle of the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, was required reading. It is as relevant today as it was then. She wrote of achieving our potential and the important role of education and of the implications for the individual as well as society when educational opportunities are not available and potential is not developed. First, there is a loss to society of the richer contribution that might have been made; second, the loss to the individual for a more productive and satisfying life and third; the frustrations that can occur when aspirations are not met, sometimes leading to embitterment or other actions that are costly to society.

As important as it is, returning to school is more than new clothes and backpacks. It is removing barriers; it is providing stability; it is developing relationships, which foster growth and promote well being; and it is helping children and youth achieve their potential. As a child-welfare agency, that is our calling and what our work is all about!

– Gene Svebakken, LCFS Chief Executive Officer