Most everyone knows the story of the Wizard of Oz, a children’s novel written in 1900 by L. Frank Baum. It became a Broadway play in 1902, and then a film musical production in 1939. The film is famous for starring Judy Garland as Dorothy and for the beautiful song, “Over the Rainbow.” However, most of us probably do not think of the Wizard of Oz as having a kinship care connection.
This is a kinship care story from long ago, about an orphaned young adolescent living with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry in rural Kansas in the early 1900s. You may remember that Dorothy has run away from home to save her little dog, Toto, from an unpleasant neighbor when a tornado approaches. Unable to get into the storm cellar with her aunt and uncle, the house with Dorothy and Toto in it gets spun away. This crisis results in Dorothy and Toto being separated from her family. They ended up not initially as some would think. But first, they landed in an emergency shelter known as Munchikin Land. Actually, it was a cross-cultural situation because the Munchikins had different clothes, voices, language, customs, etc. They were kind, compassionate, and wanted to help Dorothy and Toto get want Dorothy desperately wanted.
What did Dorothy want more than anything else?
To go home.
In order to go home, where did she have to go and who did she have to see?
She had to see the Wizard, in other words, the Judge, and Oz was actually Juvenile Court.
Now how did Dorothy have to get to Oz?
She had to travel the Yellow Brick Road, which was the paper work….a lot of paperwork.
And who did she meet along the way?
She met the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion who were looking for brains, a heart, and courage. We could say she met three caseworkers.
She also met the bad witch and the good witch. The bad witch is a child welfare system and community that does not put children and families first, it does not provide children, birth parents, kinship families, foster families, and adoptive families, and staff, with the policies, programs, and services and supports they need. But a good witch system does. It has leaders with the political will to make children and all their families the centerpiece of public policy. We have child care, health care, education, safe neighborhoods, and good schools and excellent child welfare services.
In the end, Dorothy was able to be reunited with her family – which is the first goal of child welfare. And her support system, they had what it takes all along to reunite children and families: they had the brains, the courage, and the hearts. Like them, each of us has what is needed to connect children to relationships that are safe, nurturing, and enduring – and intended to last a lifetime.
Don’t let anyone take this away from us. We need it for what CWLA’s Kinship Traditions of Caring and Collaborating Model of Practice states are the three most important words: FOR THE CHILDREN.
The above analogy was shared at the closing session of the 2016 National Foster Parent Association – National Kinship Alliance Convention in Las Vegas this past June. It was told by Eileen Mayers Pasztor, a member of the NFPA Board of Directors, who also is a trainer/consultant/curriculum developer for CWLA; this Wizard of Oz/kinship care story is described in CWLA’s Kinship Care: A Tradition of Caring and Collaborating Model of Practice curricula (www.cwla.org/kinship-care).