Technical and adaptive challenges – what we can know and what we must create new

May 17, 2023 at 8:52 AM |
Posted by: Katie Miller
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Sometimes there are already answers to the questions we have – known, proven applications for solving our current problems. Yet sometimes a solution is unknowable because it’s never existed, and we must therefore design our own way to address challenges.

This is the difference between a technical challenge and an adaptive challenge and at Alia, we provide support for both because child welfare system transformation requires both. Sometimes the hardest is determining which is which!

Take trauma healing. While human in nature, that’s a technical challenge. We know many effective ways to heal trauma – strategies which utilize a connection with our bodies and a deep connection with others. These can be learned, taught, and replicated again and again.

Picture1-1Right-sizing child welfare is an adaptive challenge. Narrowing child protective services down to its rightful, marginal place in a much larger series of preventive strategies for promoting child safety and family wellbeing has not been done before. In the long, global sense, there is nothing new under the sun. Pain, suffering, connection, patience, systems, power, oppression, love – they have all always existed and always will. We can draw inspiration from the past, yet we are creating a change that has never occurred exactly this way in a time just like this.

Other industries in contemporary history have become obsolete like Blockbuster, phone booths, and photo processing, so similarities exist and potential insights. Yet rendering the child welfare system obsolete by meeting the needs of families and reducing the conditions which promote child abuse and neglect requires effort from every aspect of our communities.

Further, child welfare abolition as an approach to transformation can be compared to prison abolition or defunding the police. Prisons or law enforcement have not always existed in the way it does now, so we can draw from wisdom from the past, yet must still make our own new way in child welfare.

Learning from those who came before us, tackling challenges different but similar in nature but with a different timestamp, we can mix technical with adaptive solutions to build community conditions to promote lifelong child and family wellbeing.