In 2016 upon moving back to the United States after 7 years abroad, I got in touch with Amelia Franck Meyer, my former MSW licensing supervisor, to reactivate my local social work connections. Maybe she knew someone who was hiring and could look beyond my gap in recent work history?
As it turned out, Amelia was starting this new thing – Alia. As she described to me the separation and placement tactics used in the child welfare industry my response was, “That sounds downright medieval.”
The timing was a match and I became one of the original employees of Alia. My first day of work was in the live audience at Amelia’s TEDx Talk in Minneapolis on the human need for belonging. It’s a message that did (and does) resonate with me so deeply.
In 2017 we hosted Ten of Ten for Kids, a national human-centered design convening, and to build out these ideas, facilitated the 4-state, 14-jurisdiction Alia UnSystem Innovation Cohort with leaders and lived experts from 2018 to 2021. Being part of these efforts was like being in changemaker school. The third year of the Cohort we did from home, scared and sick from both global pandemics – COVID-19 and systemic racism.
Through each of these work seasons, being together with Team Alia is what made it meaningful, fun, or sometimes just survivable, because it’s always the whos in life, not the whats.
I’ll be leaving Alia in August to start a new season of life. My partner and our two boys are traveling the world for a year – 6 continents and 20+ countries in 12 months. It will be life-changing for all of us.
As I reflect on the last 7 years with Alia, I’m certain I got more than I gave. And, I hope I reverberated the sense of belonging I learned on day one of Alia, truly seeing others, inviting connection, and creating a space where everyone could find their own way to shine, with ease.
To all of you who are changing the child welfare industry landscape, pushing, pulling, guiding, poking, and creating new ways to make sure kids and families are doing well – I wish you lightness, durability, joy, and above all, belonging.