I’ve spent over a decade working with a wide range of companies on a wide range of challenges - everything from small businesses trying to hone their messaging to Fortune-500s trying to hone their data strategy. Industries ranging from florists, to consumer electronics, to aerospace manufacturing. My resume includes words like strategic consulting and organizational development, but what I like to think all of that really means is that I’m very good at finding the small paths that lead us through complex problems.
When I became a foster parent, I was working at a fast-growing data consulting firm. I spent my days working with really smart companies to serve their customers using tech and data. Which made my transition into the foster care system even harder. As we began to encounter obstacle after obstacle, I knew that it didn’t have to be this way. To spend my days using processes and technology that could help, and then go home and see the impact this system was having on my kids created a sense of whiplash.
So I began advocating for change. I represented Region 2 South on the 1624 board for two years, where I spent countless hours collecting data, meeting with stakeholders, and trying to pursue solutions. And the more I listened, the more I understood how tangled and tricky some of these problems were. Most importantly, I saw that not only are the challenges complex, but the existing culture of the Washington foster care system was preventing change. This system if full of amazing people that are doing everything they can to take good care of these kids, but overall, a culture of fear and risk-aversion makes it hard to try new things or be creative. And anyone who has been around me is probably sick of hearing me say that if you can’t be creative and fail, nothing will change.
In all honesty, it was exhausting. I was considering walking away when I was invited to sit on a panel at the White House Hackathon in 2016. The entire event was encouraging and galvanizing, and as I sat on the panel discussing the private sector solutions that could impact public sector problems, I began to think about a new way to advocate. How can we show, instead of tell? How could we create a space that was energizing and creative, a place that would attract others who also want to pursue change?
A few months later, The Lab was born. And yet again, I’m blessed to be working alongside incredibly smart and fun people. We are doing everything we can to make a difference, because we passionately believe that these kids and these families deserve better. We want a system that helps when help is needed, and those who work within it don’t leave broken and exhausted.
I have adopted three amazing kids and although I cannot change the experiences that they have had, I really hope that we can make a difference for the 9,000 that are currently in Washington state foster care.