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The three-headed hydra of apathy, envy and fear wants you to thrive. If you can afford it.

Five services for thriving? “Yes,” says the three-headed hydra, “but only if you deserve them.”

“TERMS FOR SURVIVAL” SERIES

This twenty-part series introduces you to twenty key terms used in a local mobilizing process that you and your community will require to survive and thrive during colliding crises. The articles will reference the three-headed hydras of apathy, envy and fear, those people in positions of power who are fighting to keep a broken status quo.

Concept 3: Five services for thriving

Thrive: verb (used without object), thrived or throve, thrived or thriv·en [thriv-uhn] , thriv·ing.

to prosper; be fortunate or successful.

to grow or develop vigorously; flourish: The children thrived in the country.

For many reading this article, accessing the services for thriving is something we could almost do in our sleep. We can watch parent support videos on YouTube, pay for child care and early childhood learning programs, and get our kids into good schools with excellent educators and caring mentors. Job training was part of our university experience and has continued to be with online advanced degree programs.

Then came pandemics and economic disruptions. How this shakes up the nation depends on many factors. If we pay attention, we form an ignore-at-your-peril collective political voice that demands a society that ensures everyone the services for surviving and thriving. If we sit back passively, we may all find ourselves on a slippery slope to a job delivering noodles in a scene out of Blade Runner (the original, not remake).

As for your neighbors on the other side of town, for a host of reasons, they have been struggling to access five services for thriving forever. In this era of what seems an unending series of colliding crises, we can all use a little support. Allow me to explain.

How might we define the five services for thriving?

Here I describe each service and follow up with ideas for ensuring the service exists for all, even if the three-headed hydras oppose such an idea.

Parent supports

Instead of isolated and vulnerable, parents and caregiving grandparents should be able to find support online day and night. (Once we end the digital divide.) In addition to parent education, home visitation, respite care and assorted mom and dad supports, we can innovate the heck out of our county resources to ensure a local system of accessible child care for all.

We will require a county-based action team focused on parent support programs, one that will assess parents and parents-to-be, learning to what degree they have access to various forms of home visitation, child care and support. If you are like some counties we have surveyed, get ready to discover some big gaps in parent services for a wide variety of reasons. These gaps might translate into struggling parents and kids at risk for adverse childhood experiences.

With video conferencing tech found on one’s mobile device, we may be able to grow parent support networks online. We must work with the private sector and foundations to ensure every parent has the tech and wifi to access vital parent supports. This is a top priority to ensure safe childhoods and empowered parents. The goal is ongoing enrichment and creating a community of caring support for every mom, dad and caregiving grandparent, aunt and uncle.

Suggested reading: Parent Supports@100%

Early childhood learning programs

It’s time to quote a leader in the field of early childhood development.

“ We are the product of our childhoods. The health and creativity of a community is renewed each generation through its children. The family, community, or society that understands and values its children thrives; the society that does not is destined to fail.” ― Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D.

Young children learn to get ready for school if we offer an accessible countywide system of early childhood learning programs. Your local county-based action team on early childhood programs will first assess to what degree parents of young children have access to early childhood programs. From there, teams organize to address the gaps to ensure quality early childhood programs. Note: This team works closely with the parent support action team to create a networked countywide system of parent and family enrichment.

Suggested reading: Early Childhood Learning@100%

Community schools

There are two types of public schools.

Type One: has classrooms that have four walls, one overworked teacher and no support to manage 30 students, many of whom are enduring abuse and neglect at home, adversity in their neighborhoods and lack of access to health care and most of the vital services for surviving and thriving.

Type Two: is called a community school, one that is fully-resourced to give all students the best chance at success.

In a nutshell, a community school is a model that’s been evolving for decades, and it provides students and their families a learning environment enriched with extra tutors, mentors and a school-based wellness center with behavioral healthcare, dental care and medical care. It is a place funded to support teachers, welcome parents and link students to the vital services that support academic success. With technology and the fully-resourced “community school” model, we vastly improve instruction, student achievement and health.

A county action team focused on excellence in schools can discover how resourced a school is through a simple survey of students and parents. If a team discovers that schools are struggling, they can advocate for the “community school” model, one that means resourcing public schools so they have the staff and resources to meet the new needs of students and their parents. This includes creating school-based health centers to serve the entire school community. In addition to medical, dental and behavioral health care, the community school model is one where there are extra tutors and navigators to link students and parents to local surviving and thriving services. With the community school model, educators can focus on educating. The model is also one that empowers the entire school community to make effective use of learning technologies to enrich the educational experience in the classroom and online.

Suggested reading: Community Schools@100%

Youth mentoring

There are many challenges children and youth face. The more healthy role models a young person has, the more successful she or he can be. We know how important mentoring is for everyone, especially to those youth living in under-resourced communities. We also know the models for mentoring that do wonders. We have, until now, lacked the political will to ensure that every child who would thrive with a mentor, gets one.

Your collective can collaborate to ensure that a countywide system of youth mentoring is created from existing and new local face-to-face and online mentorship programs. Given our chaotic times, with a pandemic colliding with economic disruptions, all our youth will benefit greatly from caring mentors.

Suggested reading: Youth Mentoring@100%

Job training

There are some societies that believe adults should be employed or in training to be employed. No idle hands (or lives) that lead to some of society’s biggest problems. This requires subsidized training aligned with job markets and an investment in linking job seekers to a constantly evolving workforce.

Workforce development professionals have one heck of a challenge in front of them. And an opportunity to innovate.

Job training comes in many forms, including higher education, vocational education and apprenticeships. What we desperately need, in an economic free fall, is job readiness training (including college and university degree programs) aligning with the new job workforce and market in a radically changed/changing world. We need to refine online instruction to empower learners of all ages. 16-year-olds are not the same type of learners as 60-year-olds, yet both groups will want new skills for good-paying jobs.

What’s required in a countywide action team on job training that accepts a bold mission: developing local systems to get residents in training or in jobs. The goal of this team is to partner with vocational ed and higher education to align all instruction to current and future job markets. The team will also research how to create a system of subsidized training and workforce development for those who have lost jobs yet eagerly seek new employment. This will require unprecedented collaboration between the state workforce development agencies, higher education, school districts, and county and city governments. The alternative is massive unemployment, underemployment and all the costly challenges that can come with the lack of a steady paycheck.

Suggested reading: Job training@100%

First we survive. Then we thrive.

Think of each of the five services for surviving and five services for thriving like one piece of a ten-piece puzzle. When put together, they can form a complete picture. In this case, an image of a healthy person living in a well-resourced and supportive community.

Each one of the ten vital services in your county have their own complicated histories, research and political relationships associated with them. One thing is simple, without vital services people struggle. This has been illustrated most effectively through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Abraham Maslow introduced the concept in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. Fundamentally, according to Maslow, people must have their basic needs met before anything else. Education, enlightenment, and actualization are entirely possible for all of us, but only if we have stable shelter, food, and the basics.

Without basic services, a wide variety of challenges emerge that include substance misuse, mental health challenges, poor school achievement, lack of job readiness and adverse childhood experiences (ACES). Investing in vital services is both compassionate and very cost-effective.

In one of my many community forums, I said that local leaders should ensure that all parents have access to the services for thriving. A gentleman stood up and said, “I agree with you, but only if the parents deserve it.” Clearly, you will have some interesting debates with heroes and three-headed hydras when you begin advocating for services.

Who gets to thrive depends on the actions of people like you.

There you have it. With the five services for thriving in place, we can be empowered during pandemics and economic disruptions (assuming the five services for surviving are accessible, too).

A county collective, working with a shared vision, goals and activities, can be leaders in innovation with the five services for thriving. We don’t lack ways to increase access to services and to improve the quality of their services. We have the resources to ensure 100% of the residents in our nation’s 3000+ counties can both survive and thrive. This revolution in thriving can start with you. What better person is there to guide a local initiative that gives you, your neighbors and those families across town, the best chance for success?

The future is what we make it. Join the evolution.

Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of Joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. If one of my illustrations looks like a real human or three-headed hydra, that’s total coincidence. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. The future awaits: www.tenvitalservices.org

Written by

A NY Times bestselling author, social justice activist, Oprah guest, co-author of Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras, 100% Community and Anna, Age Eight.

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