Who Am I?

Warning. This will be a discussion unlike anything else you have ever had. This doesn’t mean it's a good thing. That’s for you to decide.

I want you to ask yourself one simple question:

“Who am I?”

Now remove the word “Who” and flip the last two words. What do you place after two simple words:

I am _________________.

I will come back to this at the end.


I went for a run last week and had an epiphany. Along a busy road, at the middle mark of my run, a large dog (half german shepherd and half something else) darted out of a tree line in my direction. I remember having two thoughts:

1. This dog could be hit by a car, so I need to get him (assuming the dog was male) back into the tree line; and

2. I didn’t feel like getting attacked by this large dog.

So, instead of trying to outrun him, which was not in the realm of the possible, I knew I had to run at him. As soon as I ran at the dog, he quickly changed course and ran away into the tree line.

image created by Dr. Schwandt via Plectica

As I finished my run, I knew I was presented with the perfect analogy for this discussion. The dog did not appear to be in the best of shape. My assumption was that he wasn’t receiving the best of care, which is sad. In addition, he was likely far from home running near a busy road. He could have been killed, or worse, he could have chased me into the road where we both could have been killed.

image created by Dr. Schwandt via Plectica

The dog immediately reminded me of myself as a foster child: forgotten, left to fend for himself, way too far from home (if he knew what that even meant… to have a home), and was used to people running away from him (literally, mentally, and emotionally). The last remark — used to people running away from him — is the key piece.

If I were to use myself in this example (the runner), then the dog (or foster child) is used to people running away. By running away, I mean trying to pretend a foster child is not a foster child. Pretending the child is a “normal” child.

One of the questions I am often asked is:

“Should I treat him or her like my own child and not a foster child?”

I will admit, I have struggled to answer this question for nearly twenty years, but I now know the answer: No.

He or she is not your child. In this moment in time, he or she is a foster child. It is more important that we aim at truth. To aim for truth doesn’t mean to discover the truth — the truth is not out there, but the facts are out there.

In Philosophy: Everything You Need to Know To Master the Subject — In One Book!, Peter Gibson informs us that truth is the relationship between our mind and the facts. He says that truth is a precise correspondence (or relationship between meaning and facts), like how a map depicts a landscape.

Truth is how we make sense of and describe our thoughts. So, if a mind did not exist, truth would not exist. But facts would.

image created by Dr. Schwandt via Plectica

Using myself as an example, it is a fact that I was placed in foster care in 1996. If the truth is how we make sense of something, then we have to be comfortable addressing the fact that, at this moment in time, a foster child is a foster child. Trying to pretend the foster child is your own child, and refusing to address the facts, are like running away from the dog.

You must run at the dog — or in the direction of the foster child and confront the situation head-on. If you fail to do this, then you will be lying to yourself and the child.

One Thing

image created by Dr. Schwandt

Using another analogy, let’s compare foster care to an ecosystem, which is a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment — or a complex network or interconnected system.

image via https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280287106_Fish-seastar_facilitation_leads_to_algal_forest_restoration_on_protected_rocky_reefs/figures?lo=1

I am reminded here of what’s known as a trophic cascade, which are powerful indirect interactions that can control entire ecosystems. What’s crazy is the addition or removal of one thing or one organism can cause a trophic cascade.

My One Thing

I was placed in foster care in 1996, which was right before the foster care system was privatized in Kansas. I was technically only in foster care for one year. Arrangements were made between my father, the Department for Children and Families (DCF) — known then as the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS), and different families in Kensington, Kansas, where I was placed into foster care.

The goal was to place me back into the care of my father but to keep me in the Kensington community. My father basically paid rent for me to live with different families in Kensington.

Until recently, I haven’t spent much time looking back at this arrangement. But it makes sense now. The goal was to reintegrate me with my family, repair issues within my family, allow my parents the chance to change, and keep me in a community allowing me the best opportunity to thrive. The intention was reintegration in the best interest of the child.

Quick question: If there was one thing we added or removed in foster care causing something similar to a trophic cascade, what would it be?

image created by Dr. Schwandt via Plectica

This worked until I decided I wanted to try living with my father again. I spent the summer of 1997 living with my father in Hays, Kansas, then Beloit, Kansas. While living with my father I realized something was not right. I was terrified. I had nightmares of things going back to the way they were.

My parents were alcoholics and lived a rough life. They divorced when I was two years old, in and out of jail, poor, and attempted suicide on multiple occasions. In fact, my father committed suicide in 2001.

In late July of 1997, I contacted different families in Kensington requesting to live with them. However, no arrangements were made this time. My last chance to return to the Kensington community was to live with my grandparents.

I called my grandparents and they said no. But I kept at it. They finally agreed to allow me to live with them if I could get my mother to move back with me. My mother was living with random people and was in a bad situation.

Without hesitation, I agreed. They provided me a phone number for a motel she was staying at in Russell, Kansas. She was staying with an unknown man in the motel. I contacted her and left for Russell.

At 16-years-old, I left Beloit for Russell to pick up my mother. When I arrived at the motel, my mother was intoxicated. Luckily, the unknown man was even more intoxicated and wasn’t an issue for me.

My mother refused to leave, but there was no way I was leaving without her. I picked her up, threw her over my shoulder, and drove off. I’m not sure if this is technically kidnapping or not?!

As I drove my mother to my grandparents in Phillipsburg, I remember she stole a pack of cigarettes from a gas station in Stockton, Kansas. I think about that event every time I drive through Plainville and Stockton. Passing through those towns takes me back to that one moment in time.

I was successful in bringing my mother back to my grandparents. And this turned out to be the best year of my young life — or the most “normal” (that word again). My mother almost changed her life. She got a job and very rarely touched alcohol. I was healthy, my grandparents were healthy, and my mother was healthy. And I was not in foster care. The system at that time forced me and my family to work things out. They refused to place the used band-aid (foster care) back on.

Time Travel

Memory engrams: Recalling the past and imagining the future. Image via https://science.sciencemag.org/content/367/6473/eaaw4325

It’s amazing what we remember. The experiences I remember are the ones that left an impact or those that helped me remember events I cherish. For example, I can remember certain events in detail at my grandparent's home— those events seem irrelevant, but they are some of my most cherished memories.

It’s crazy, but different food and drinks allow me to sort of time-travel back to those moments. Eating a tomato transports me back to my great-grandparent's home in Kirwin, Kansas. Ice cream cups take me back to my grandparents in Phillipsburg, Kansas. And the smell and taste of A&W Root Beer transport me back to Kensington, where I worked as a janitor one summer (I was 13-years-old) and lived with Bob and Sharon Bearley in Kensington.

My One Thing

What I find interesting here is how one thing can completely change everything in a system. Eliyahu M. Goldratt writes about complexity and degrees of freedom in The Choice:

“Look at the system and ask yourself: What is the minimum number of points you have to touch in order to impact the whole system? IF the answer is one, THEN the system has only one degree of freedom.”

Goldratt remarked about complexity:

“If you are a scientist or a manager, you are not so much interested in the description of the system. You are more interested in the difficulty of controlling and predicting its behavior, especially when changes are introduced. Your definition of complexity is — the more degrees of freedom the system has the more complex it is.”

For example, which system is more complex?

image via https://www.synchrono.com/system-complex-answer-simpler-think/

The answer is A — most think it’s B. However, System B has 1 degree of freedom, where System A has 4 degrees of freedom. One thing would not impact System A; however, one thing would impact everything in System B.

The Cobra Effect

“Any falsehood can appear to be true. For every reason to believe something, there is another reason to deny it.” — Peter Gibson

In Fostering Children in Kansas is Big Business, I wrote about the Cobra Effect, which occurs when an attempted solution to a problem makes the problem much worse. I recommend reading / listening to Stephen J. Dubner as he provides a great discussion about this in The Cobra Effect. The discussion of the Cobra Effect comes up while Dubner interviews Vikas Mehrotra, a finance professor at the University of Alberta. Mehrotra stated:

So the “cobra effect” refers to a scheme in colonial India where the British governor, or whoever, the person in charge in Delhi, wanted to rid Delhi of cobras.

Apparently, in his opinion there were too many cobras in Delhi. So he had the bounty placed on cobras. And he expected this would solve the problem.

But the population in Delhi, at least some of it, responded by farming cobras. And all of a sudden the administration was getting too many cobra skins.

And they decided the scheme wasn’t as smart as it initially appeared and they rescinded the scheme.

But by then the cobra farmers had this little population of cobras to deal with. And what do you do if there’s no market? You just release them. And so this significantly, by a few orders of magnitude, worsened the cobra menace in Delhi.

Let’s examine this using foster care.

Kansas wanted to revamp foster care to save money. Apparently, there were too many children in care and Kansas was spending too much on children in care.

Kansas created a market, and for every market, there must be a commodity. All of the sudden the market took off and foster children became a hot commodity.

The population of foster children had grown significantly — along with money for foster care contracts.

Knowledge vs Belief

image created by Dr. Schwandt via Plectica

When you make an assumption and don’t take the necessary steps to make sure the assumption is correct, you are begging the question. Or if your explanation takes for granted the same thing being explained, then you are also begging the question.

So, it begs the question, if you have more children enter foster care and you think the solution is to spend more money on a system designed to have more children enter foster care.

If you use B to explain A, and later use A to explain B, then you are guilty of using circular reasoning.

For example, if you show more children are entering foster care every year to explain why you are spending more money on foster care, yet you later explain you are spending more money on foster care to explain why more children are entering foster care… then you have fallen into the trap of circular reasoning.

Similarly, if you believe something to be true, but you are wrong, then you don’t know. You can’t know something if it’s wrong. This is why truth is a minimum requirement for knowledge. This is also why truth isn’t out there, but facts are. Likewise, knowledge isn’t out there, but data or information is.

Friends of mine, Derek and Laura Cabrera, like to say: “Information does not equal knowledge. Information plus thinking equals knowledge.”

Facts alone don’t equal knowledge. It’s what you do with facts that bring about knowledge. Thus, facts plus truth equal knowledge.

So, if you believe spending more money on foster care will fix the problem (of more children entering foster care), then you don’t know.

So What?

Point of View

image created by Dr. Schwandt via Plectica

“You can’t intend to turn left and turn right at the same time.” — Peter Gibson

In Philosophy: Everything You Need to Know to Master the Subject — in One Book!, Peter Gibson comments,

“If a detective and criminal are thinking about a crime, they are thinking about the same thing, but their thoughts are likely to have different content.”

Here, the content is what the thought is about — the content is their meaning. And truth equals meaning and its relationship to facts.

In foster care, the government and contractor are thinking about foster care. They are thinking about the same thing, but their thoughts have completely different content (even if it’s about the same thing).

Moreover, Gibson informs us that the notion of a concept is central to our understanding of thought — you can’t focus on something without a concept of it. For example, a for-profit contractor can’t focus on the government’s desire for foster care, because the government’s concept is not the same as their concept. Likewise, the government can’t focus on the contractor’s concept because the government’s concept is different.

image created by Dr. Schwandt via Plectica

What is Foster Care?

What is the goal of foster care? Image via https://adoption.com/atollo/articles/foster-care/

In 6 Degrees of Foster Care: Part One, I provide a detailed discussion of the foster care system.

Foster care is a system in which a minor has been placed into a ward, group home, or private home of a state-certified caregiver, referred to as a foster parent. It is a situation in which for a time a child lives with and is cared for by people who are not the child’s parents.

In the United States, each state defines foster care similarly. For example, Kansas defines foster care in the Prevention and Protective Services (PPS) Policy and Procedure Manual Printed Documentation for January 1, 2020, as 24-hour substitute care for children placed away from their parents or guardians and for whom the state agency has placement and care responsibility.

Conditions. Image via https://adoption.com/atollo/articles/foster-care/

The objective of the foster care system is to create conditions for reunification after a limited time. The conditions or necessary condition is something that must be present for an event to occur. The event to occur is the reunification of the child after a limited time. The condition is that the child can be reunified with his or her parents. This means parents must be ready and capable to reunify with the child and safely care for the child. This also means that the primary measures of success should be tied directly to the conditions.

This means the primary focus should be on making sure the parents are ready and capable of reunifying with the child. To do this, the system must be capable of providing a temporary home for children while assisting their parents. The focus should be on the parents, not necessarily on the children.

The Goals of Privatization in Foster Care

Goals of Privatization in Foster Care. Image via https://adoption.com/atollo/articles/foster-care/

If you read In Privatization of Child Welfare Services: A Guide for State Advocates, published in October 2012, you can see the advice offered to advocates of privatization in foster care. This document is published by the State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center (SPARC), an initiative funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. SPARC is managed by an organization known as First Focus.

In Getting Left of Bang in Foster Care I discuss in detail what has happened in the Kansas foster care system. I analyzed the increase in the number of foster children entering care and the amount of money Kansas was paying contractors from the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 to the FY 2017. I then examined the system through the end of FY19.

I examined Contract #37680 — Contract Title: Reintegration, Foster Care and Adoption Services — Agency Department for Children and Families — Awarded to St. Francis Community and Family — Signed by the President/CEO of Saint Francis Community Services, “The Very Revered Robert N. Smith.”

The goal of foster care is in Kansas is permanency, which is where the child is being released from the DCF custody after achieving reintegration, guardianship, or finalization of an adoption.

I examined the verbiage in the contract and found the following:

Verbiage from Contract #37680 — Contract Title: Reintegration, Foster Care and Adoption Services — Agency Department for Children and Families — Awarded to St. Francis Community and Family — Signed by the President/CEO of Saint Francis Community Services, “The Very Revered Robert N. Smith.” Image via https://adoption.com/atollo/articles/foster-care/

If the stated goal is to safely reunite children with their families as soon as possible and foster care is viewed as a temporary arrangement for a child, then why are they not incentivized when permanency is achieved?

As you can see, a contractor is not paid when a child is reintegrated, adopted, or placed in permanent custodianship; hence, a contractor is not paid when permanency is achieved.

I found that this leaves two potential unintended consequences:

1. The contractor will need to maintain a consistent rate of foster children to get paid.

2. The contractor will need to bring children in faster than they lose them to permanency.


image via https://jamieschwandt.medium.com/getting-left-of-bang-in-foster-care-f8bd0cc50936#:~:text=Left%20of%20bang%20means%20before,of%20the%20foster%20care%20system.

The use of a marketplace shows the core element of this discussion. It is why there is a system mismatch, in that the system was not designed to be what it is today and the conditions we have set for the system are counter to its design.

When you have a marketplace, you must have a market. The marketplace is the interpreter of supply and demand. It is an open place where markets or public sales are held and in a market, you need a commodity (and you need to establish the rate or price of a commodity).

In foster care, the commodity is a child. In the contract discussed above, I found that every foster child is worth $26,422.56 while in care, yet they are worth $0 to a contractor once they leave care.

So, if the objective of foster care is to provide a temporary home for children until they can safely reunite with their family, and we have set the conditions of a marketplace (where the child is the commodity), then the system will never be incentivized to reunite the child with their family. Bottom line: marketplace needs a commodity–the commodity is a child.

image via https://jamieschwandt.medium.com/getting-left-of-bang-in-foster-care-f8bd0cc50936#:~:text=Left%20of%20bang%20means%20before,of%20the%20foster%20care%20system.

With that said, privatization has encouraged competition in the marketplace. Foster care has become big money and commodities are soaring. In Kansas, we have a never-ending supply of contractors, both nonprofit and for-profit.

For those of you who question the inclusion of for-profit, then you need to examine The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, signed into law by President Clinton.

The act says:

“A comprehensive bipartisan welfare reform plan that will dramatically change the nation’s welfare system into one that requires work in exchange for time-limited assistance.

The law contains strong work requirements, a performance bonus to reward states for moving welfare recipients into jobs, state maintenance of effort requirements, comprehensive child support enforcement, and supports for families moving from welfare to work — including increased funding for child care and guaranteed medical coverage.”

Susan Mangold writes in Protection, Privatization, and Profit in the Foster Care System,

“The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act included an amendment to the Social Security Act allowing for-profit private providers to subcontract with public child welfare agencies to provide foster care services for abused and neglected children. Allowing profit-making in the delivery of foster care expands the privatization of service delivery in the child welfare system.”

For-Profit vs. Nonprofit

image via https://adoption.com/atollo/articles/foster-care/

Knowing this, for-profit foster care companies should never feel guilty about doing the one thing they are supposed to do: make money.

A for-profit company is an organization that operates to make a profit, especially one (such as a hospital or school) that would more typically be nonprofit.

A nonprofit corporation is any legal entity that has been incorporated under the law of its jurisdiction for purposes other than making profits for its owners or shareholders.

Depending on the laws of the jurisdiction, a nonprofit corporation may seek official recognition as such, may be taxed differently from for-profit corporations, and may be treated differently in other ways.

And there is the secret. The key difference between for-profit and nonprofit: tax exemptions and deductions.

In fact, religious corporations are subject to less rigorous state and federal filing and reporting requirements than many other tax-exempt organizations, and, depending on the state in which they are located, they may also be exempt from some of the inspections or regulations governing non-religious groups performing the same services.

For-profit companies feel guilty about being what they are. To get around some of the tax constraints, for-profit companies, such as AAHNs Place in Kansas, set up nonprofit organizations to fund their for-profit company.

Now What?

Swarm Learning: Teaching Students How To Think, Not What To Think

image via jamieschwandt.com

So, what can you do? I recommend using a methodology and philosophy I created for classes I teach at Fort Hays State University (FHSU) called Swarm Learning: Teaching Students How To Think, Not What To Think.

image via Swarm Learning

I published a textbook on the methodology. Swarm Learning is similar to the concept of a Desire Path, which is the path that usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination.

image via https://99percentinvisible.org/article/least-resistance-desire-paths-can-lead-better-design/

Swarm Learning uses probing questions, such as meta-questions.

image via Swarm Learning

Ants will swarm an area for food, shoot pheromones, effectively and efficiently move the food, then swarm again and repeat.

Imagine ants are students or people working with foster children (foster parents, social workers, CASA, etc.). First, ants will leave their anthill (classroom or home of the child or foster home). They will swarm around information or facts (or children in trouble).

Second, depending on the type of problem, they will orient to the situation and think about the correct action needed. Third, students and children (as well as those working with foster children) will provide continuous feedback (think bringing food back into the anthill). They will then feed it forward (the teacher changes a class or a system makes improvement). Finally, swarm again (repeat).

via http://www.talamram.nl/digitalants

Imagine ants as social workers and foster parents swarming. They swarm around children and families empowered to assist them. The stronger the need the more help provided.

Break — Transform — Create

B-Butterfly: The Secret Inside Our Brain: Written by a Six-Year-Old Girl! Illustrated using Artificial Intelligence (AI) (Ella’s Imaginative Brain) buy here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B091F3MPQV?fbclid=IwAR24vPGbx_K4kFAly1b4-K4ZmL5wU_Go-5jr1ATZqdxV2AY79orHDLqQfw8

Yet, to even attempt to try something as abstract as I just discussed, those working with foster children and families must be empowered. This requires leaders to create a different kind of system.

In Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life, Francesca Gino discusses the importance of rebels,

“We think of them as troublemakers, outcasts, contrarians: those colleagues, friends, and family members who complicate seemingly straightforward decisions, create chaos, and disagree when everyone else is in agreement.

But in truth, rebels are also those among us who change the world for the better with their unconventional outlooks. Instead of clinging to what is safe and familiar, and falling back on routines and tradition, rebels defy the status quo. They are masters of innovation and reinvention, and they have a lot to teach us.”

Gino provides 5 core elements of rebel talent:

  1. Novelty. Seeking out challenge and the new.
  2. Curiosity. The impulse we all had as children to constantly ask, “Why?”.
  3. Perspective. The ability rebels have to constantly broaden their view of the world and see it as others do.
  4. Diversity. The tendency to challenge predetermined social roles and reach out to those who may appear different.
  5. Authenticity. Rebels embrace authenticity in all they do. They remain open and vulnerable in order to connect with others and learn from them.

By embracing the elements, you can develop a mindset extremely important when working with foster children — a scout mindset. In The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t, Julia Galef describes a scout mindset as: “The motivation to see things as they are, not as you wish they were.”

You can watch her TedTalk on the same topic here: Why you think you’re right — even if you’re wrong.

Galef discusses how our mindset can make or break our judgement and that it is what keeps us from fooling ourself on tough questions. It prompts us to question our assumptions. She says scouts tend to:

  1. See reasoning like mapmaking.
  2. Decide what to believe by asking, “is this true?”
  3. Finding out you’re wrong means revising your map.
  4. Seek out evidence that will make your map more accurate.
  5. Embrace truth-seeking, discovery, objectivity, and intellectual honesty.

Scouts are more likely to see what others can’t and what others won’t see. To become a scout, we must open our eyes and look at the actual problem, or as Sherlock Holmes put it in “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes — Silver Blaze” by Arthur Conan Doyle:

“I only saw it because I was looking for it.”

Left of Bang

In Getting Left of Bang in Foster Care, I wrote that, to open our eyes, I propose we use a program developed by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) called the Combat Hunter program.

The method used in the program is called Combat Profiling, and the USMC defines it as a method of proactively identifying enemy personnel or threats through human behavior pattern analysis and recognition.

Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley discuss the program in their book Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life.

When visualizing what left of bang means, Van Horne and Riley instruct us to think about an attack on a timeline, where the “bang” is the middle — bang is the explosion, the ambush, the thing we want to prevent. Van Horne and Riley inform us:

Left of bang means before the bad stuff happens. That’s where you want to be alert, ready, prepared to respond to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Right of bang means after the bomb has gone off, after the shots have been fired, after the damage has been done.

Now think of the foster care system. If we use Van Horne and Riley’s visualization, we can think of a child being abused or removed from his or her home in the same way as we think of an attack or ambush. The abuse and removal are essentially the “bang” or the thing we want to prevent.

In Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life, Van Horne and Riley ask the following questions, which apply to problems in foster care:

Question 1: How can you discern those who want to harm you from those who are just afraid or just going about their business before the attack?

We could just as easily ask: How can a social worker discern which parents are placing their children at risk of abuse or neglect with those who simply need some form of assistance?

Question 2: How can you defuse a threat before it happens?

We could ask: How can a foster parent defuse a threat to a child who visits their biological parents before something terrible happens?

Question 3: Is that even possible?

We could ask: Is it even possible to get left of bang; is it even possible to prevent a child from being abused or neglected; thus, preventing the need to place the child in foster care?

Van Horne and Riley write that operating left of bang requires intense concentration to identify pre-event indicators. These pre-event indicators are the way to answer “Yes” to question number three above. Van Horne and Riley write about identifying pre-event indicators:

Attacks do not happen “out of the blue.” Even what may be considered spontaneous violence is almost always the result of a gradual progression of aggression and precursors to violence.

Baseline + Anomaly = Decision

The USMC provides students a student handout for its Combat Hunter program. In the handout titled Profiling and Tactical Tracking Student Handout, we are provided with an equation: Baseline + Anomaly = Decision. In the handout, we are provided with the following:

Combat profiles are indicators based on the enemy’s techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTPs); and their observable and measurable behavior patterns.

When Marines identify the enemies’ TTPs and behavior patterns, they can assist you to identify the enemy among the civilians.

Profiles are deviations (anomalies) from a normal or typical behavior (the baseline) which would lead you to believe that an observed situation (persons, events, vehicles and objects) may have the potential for harming you or other people.

These deviations are anomalies that stand out from the surrounding area’s baseline.

In the handout, we are informed everything has a baseline (places, events, cultures, human terrain, etc.), and a baseline is the reference point to compare and evaluate things against.

The USMC uses the Boyd Cycle (otherwise known as the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) Loop) and teaches that we must continuously update our baseline to incorporate changes in the environment and to identify anomalies. This is the Observe and Orient phase of the OODA Loop.

Furthermore, we are provided the following definition of an anomaly in the handout:

An anomaly is a deviation from the baseline, anything that rises above; something that is there that should not be there.

Or it could be something that falls below the baseline; it is something that is absent that should be there. Examples of an anomaly could be a vehicle out of place (rises above), the lack of people (falls below), or a sudden change in the mood of an area (both).

The presence of such anomalies indicates a potentially important change; every anomaly must be analyzed. This represents the orient phase of Boyd’s Decision Cycle.

An example of an anomaly in foster care could be a child fails to attend school for weeks (falls below the baseline) or a child shows up with visible bruises (rises above the baseline).

Here the baseline is that the child is typically present in school and has not been previously seen having bruises.

The anomaly is the fact that the child is absent from school or that the child has visible injuries.

I Am?

What’s the difference between a homeless person and all of you? It’s clear he or she is homeless and we can all clearly see their problems. However, does that mean you have no problems, issues, addictions, etc.?

Just as a homeless person makes it clear they have issues, you all know who the foster child is in your community. Being labeled a foster child carries a stigma. Similar to the homeless person, we assume the child is poor, has family issues, and has been abused and/or neglected.

image created by Dr. Schwandt via Plectica

If you ask my friend, Seth Kastle, he would likely agree that a foster child would not necessarily have more issues than he had. The biggest difference is the foster child is a known commodity, whereas the normal children do not openly flaunt their depression, addiction, or family issues.

I have used the word “normal” a few times now. Yet, if you really knew the issues another child faces, would you still label them as “normal”? Normal means conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

I guess you could say if “normal” means conforming to the standard of not openly sharing your issues, then I guess you could label someone normal.

However, I would argue that no one is normal and no one wants to be normal. If you are normal than you are no different than whatever we think someone should be.

If we live a life by those standards, living based on a standard set by someone else, then which person is the normal person by which the standard is set?

And would it not change frequently?

So, does a “normal” person actually exist?

Now. Think back to the beginning of this discussion. What did you place after the words I am _________________?

Was it normal? Was it a father, teacher, mother, husband, wife, educator, social worker, runner, athlete, etc?

If you chose father, does this mean you can’t be an athlete? If you chose educator, does this mean you can’t be a husband?

If you are something, can you be something else?

If I am a foster child, can I be anything else but a foster child?

In The Heart of the Shaman by Alberto Villoldo, we are presented with a fascinating discussion on this topic:

“I am. These are two of the most powerful words in our language.

Whatever words we place after these two words shapes our reality for the entire day, and sometimes for the rest of our lives.”

“When the words you place after the phrase ‘I am’ are hungry, afraid, angry, and lonely, you will spend the rest of your days trying to fill the void that they represent.”

“After you discover that you cannot be defined by your name or by your nationality or by your gender — that all of these are real but not intrinsically true — you begin to accept the possibility that what you thought was your identity was only a dream.”

It is accurate to say a child is a foster child, but it would not be true for the child to say, “I am a foster child.” The same can be said for the “normal” child. It is not true for him or her to say, “I am a normal child.”

If you think about it for a moment, the foster child does not permanately remain a foster child. I was technically a foster child for less than a year. So it would be inaccurate now, just as it would have been then, to say, “I am a foster child.”

But that doesn’t take away the reality that I was in foster care and that I was not my foster parent's child.

“After you find that there is no noun, no modifier, no description that can complete the ‘I am _____,’ then you settle for the ‘I am.’ And then the dream of security will begin to unravel itself.”

There is only one real way to answer the question and fill in the blank after the words “I am_______?”

Have you figured it out yet?

“The holiest, most sacred aspect of your identity is the ‘I am.’ According to the Bible, the name of God is ‘I am that I am.’ Who am I? I am.”

So, who are you?

Don’t forget to take the survey!


Plectica Presentation

Family Books / www.jamieschwandt.com

Book Recommendations:

Philosophy: Everything You Need to Know to Master the Subject … In One Book!

The Choice

Swarm Learning: Teaching Students How To Think, Not What To Think

Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life

The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t

Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life

The Heart of the Shaman

Blog Recommendations:

Fostering Children in Kansas is Big Business

The Cobra Effect

6 Degrees of Foster Care: Part One

In Privatization of Child Welfare Services: A Guide for State Advocates

Getting Left of Bang in Foster Care

Policy Related Recommendations:

Prevention and Protective Services (PPS) Policy and Procedure Manual Printed Documentation for January 1, 2020

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996

Protection, Privatization, and Profit in the Foster Care System

Other Recommendations:

Profiling and Tactical Tracking Student Handout




Dr. Schwandt (Ed.D.) is an American author, L6S master black belt, and red teamer.

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Dr. Jamie Schwandt

Dr. Jamie Schwandt

Dr. Schwandt (Ed.D.) is an American author, L6S master black belt, and red teamer.

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