Meet our new board member, Michael Douris. We asked Michael a few questions to get to know him better. He is already making great contributions to BEB’s mission, giving more deserving children every day the chance to grow up in a loving family.
What about BEB’s work motivates you? What about the mission resonates with you?
I have had the privilege of working with children for 50 years and have seen the devastating impact of poor management of child welfare systems on children’s lives. One would think databases, public law, and policy and procedures are not that important in the scheme of helping children but all of that provides the framework of caring for our most vulnerable children. Data collection and communication within the child welfare systems are crucial to the whole process. That is what excites me about what BEB is doing. This work will help tens of thousands of kids get permanency and prevent more harm coming to them inflicted by a system that is not working efficiently in their best interest. I am humbled to now be a small part of providing a real solution to a fundamental need to serve children well.
How does your career experience or personal testimony relate to BEB’s mission and work?
I have had the privilege to work in many countries worldwide and be a part of efforts to improve their child welfare systems. That experience has made it clear collaborative focused effort can make a huge difference in enhancing systems over time. I am also a practitioner as I have managed programs in the full spectrum of care, including residential, foster care, adoption, schools, treatment programs, assessment centers, community-based programs both internationally and domestically. I hope my experience working with governments and public and private child welfare programs will contribute to the work of BEB.
In your own words, what does family mean to you?
Family is the basic unit of life created by God to provide love, support, education, fellowship, and safety. I am so blessed to have a wonderful wife closing in on 50 years and three terrific children, all of who married well, as well as three outstanding grandchildren. They are the anchor in my life – a gift from the Lord. I know the importance of family, having seen the effects of not having family in thousands of children worldwide. It is heart-wrenching to see the hole it creates in a child when they are not connected to family. Being loved unconditionally is a fundamental need of everyone, and family provides that love better than any other construct. One universal principle of every child I have served is that they yearn to be in a loving family.
Why do you believe it is important for vulnerable children to have a loving family?
As mentioned above, the family provides everything needed for a child to thrive. In addition to that, it is clear to see how important family is by looking at children who exit the child welfare system without family support. A high portion of our prison population is occupied by individuals who are products of the child welfare system. A significant percentage of children commit suicide when they age out of the child welfare system, and they are significantly more susceptible to being trafficked, abusing substances, and being homeless. This is not a coincidence. It demonstrates how crucial family is for a child to thrive.
What do you personally envision for the future of child welfare?
Amid significant worldwide challenges regarding systemic reform in child welfare systems, there are signs that governments are attempting to move in the direction of less dependency on residential and moving children to permanency quicker. The most significant barrier is the lack of resources to expand efficiency, broaden the continuum of care and build capacity. Governments need tangible assistance in building infrastructure to manage children entering the system and providing more diverse programs to address the needs of children. BEB is positioned exceptionally well to be a significant voice to improve the system of care for the world’s most vulnerable children.
What do you hope BEB will achieve in the near future? In the long term?
I am early in getting to know all that BEB is doing, so with that caveat, I think the near-term acquisition of more countries and continued implementation of the software in countries that are in the process is the primary goal for the near future. As for the future, my initial thoughts are that collecting all the data from different countries will give BEB a unique platform to assess the challenges of the child welfare program and identify some of the critical areas for reform to make those efforts more effective for children. I think advocacy and consultation in system reform could be a huge growth area for BEB.
Anything else you would like to add?
It is a privilege and honor to be a member of the board of BEB. I am so impressed with the work that has been accomplished. Child Welfare systems are not for the faint of heart. They are complex, frustrating, and hard to move in a positive direction, but this work has a tremendous impact on children’s lives.
I am looking forward to working alongside some very talented staff and board members to impact children’s lives worldwide.