Preparing for Shattered Expectations
MORE AND MORE EACH DAY, WE ARE BECOMING ACCUSTOMED TO GETTING WHAT WE WANT, WHEN WE WANT IT AT LEAST WHEN SPENDING MONEY IS CONCERNED. IF WE CAN BUY IT, ITS MOST LIKELY OUT THERE FOR A PRICE. WHEN ACCESSING SERVICES FOR OUR FAMILY, WE CAN’T SIMPLY ORDER WHAT WE WANT OFF A MENU.
Over the past decade or so, I’ve sat with hundreds of families attempting to make the best of the hand that life has dealt them. For all intents and purposes, I understand what they are going through because I’ve either gone through it myself or have stood by other families going through similar situations. As many of my friends know, I don’t believe in many absolutes: life is highly unpredictable. We do what we can do with that unpredictability.
However, of the few things I know for sure, I know without any doubt that the bureaucracy relating to accessing services for one’s family is often a surprise for most families. In a culture where so much of what we want is out there for the buying, there are many surprises that the system has in store for most families. Simply put, most families simply do not have the level of expertise in the area of services, trusts, benefits, etc. to understand what is ahead of them. So, when they begin their quests to assist their families, they are often surprised by what they find and the difficulty of searching.
Here are three bureaucratic surprises that you may wish to consider when attempting to access services and benefits for your family:
Bureaucratic Barrier #1: The System is Reactive, Not Proactive
The day after my son was born, it’s not like a FedEx package was delivered on my doorstep the next day with a letter saying, Congratulations. Now, here are the steps you should take to make the best life for this little guy. Like many families, my family and I experienced much confusion and were subject to much misinformation and disinformation (aka mythinformation) out there coming at us. Surprisingly enough, the system did not contact us about benefits. In fact, many were urging us to give him up for foster care or adoption. We had to go searching ourselves for what our family needed. We had to take the first steps and, more often than not, we had to take many, many more steps ourselves after that to keep the process moving.
Bureaucratic Barrier #2: No Understandable Menu
Again, considering the consumer mindset that so many of us have concerning services for our family, wed expect for there to be a menu of services presented to us. What does the county offer? What does the federal government offer? What does the city and local government offer? All things considered, especially in this age of technology, wed expect that there would be a concise means by which the system would inform us about the benefits to which we may be entitled. However, that’s simply not the case. More often than not, it’s not until we find others that have accessed such services before that we are even aware these exist at all. We need to find those that have walked through the process before. In our case, we plugged into Regional Center and were handed a huge book a menu that we did not understand.
Bureaucratic Barrier #3: Guides Are Not Simply Provided
They’re not! While you may find that there are many helpful individuals within the various agencies with which your family will communicate, it’s rare that a bona fide, all-inclusive guide will be provided for you. Often, those other people with which you will communicate will have a narrow expertise relating to the agency for which they work they may see things with a one-size-fits-all mindset. To find a guide that understands how the agencies function alongside one another (as apposed to simply understanding how one agency functions), you will often need to seek such a person or agency out. You’re looking for help in coordination and integration someone that understands the dynamics of your situation. Paper does not remove personalization!
In the end, remember that although there are potentially many frustrations ahead, the vast majority of agencies are filled with helpful individuals that share many of your goals. Consider who can guide you through the process of working with such agencies and building an overall strategy for your family. Look for their individual expertise. Consider the community of people around you and their respective fields. What expertise is available to you today?
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