This past week I was privileged to attend my organization’s global summit on child permanency. Officially branded as an event dedicated to “Achieving Child Permanency through Innovation,” this conference assembled child welfare experts from 20 nations at Harvard University to collaborate on better ways to care for the world’s most vulnerable and often forgotten citizens. It was a remarkable experience, on every possible level, and I will forever be grateful for the chance to participate in the birth of a global collation dedicated to change.

However, the details of the conference and the experiences we shared in Boston are not mine to tell; that part of the story belongs to those more articulate and better qualified than I. Instead, this blog focuses on two of my biggest “ah-ha!” moments from the week: how clarity and tiny adjustments in thinking can make a big impact; and, while differences will seek to separate us from unity and relationship, there is always a pathway that will allow us to walk side by side.

I come to this advocacy work via a lifelong journey of infertility. As many of my readers already know, mine was not an easy or quick journey. It involved many detours and new paths along the 23-year long process. Our version of family building was “us-centric” (can I make up that word?) which involved having our own kids, through treatment and adoption.

Before my family was complete, it became clear that I would spend my life fighting for other parents and children too. But, this week I had a moment of clarity that broadened my vision. I realized that my process was so long and difficult because I needed to – at the very cellular level – have an understanding of the need for family. Essentially, I needed to long and thirst for a family so that I would deeply value and fight for this foundational unit.

My infertility was not necessarily about having a child (although I wouldn’t have understood this back then), it was all about building a family. My work is not necessarily about an orphan finding a family, as much as it is about finding families for orphans. The shift from orphan-view to family-view is huge! It’s about the bigger picture, about processes and solutions, about the group and not the individual. It’s a slight shift in thinking, which I believe is really what this new era of permanency is all about anyway. It’s grasping hold of a higher purpose of family building and not orphan care. For me, it’s clarity and understanding that my journey ties in completely with my destiny. I’m no longer so near-sighted on this issue and I’m thankful for the vision adjustment.

It was also this idea of focusing on a higher, or an over-arching purpose, where I saw a breakthrough this week between delegates from 20 countries. There were so many possible areas that could have broken or destroyed the unity of our symposium: nationalism, traditionalism, culture, language, and religion. At every turn, we reaffirmed this notion that our unity could reside in the area of children belonging in families.

In essence, I witnessed a group of 80 people transcend all of these typical barriers to find a new path forged with a similar passion. Looking back on our time together, the way we achieved this cross-cultural unity simply reduces me to tears. Everyone found a way to step over barriers that typically separate us so that we could begin this incredible journey together. We have miles and miles and miles to go, but I am so inspired and hopeful that we have found a key to unity that will serve us well for years to come.

Here’s to moments of clarity between new friends! Here’s to the stories we shared, the plans we developed, and the celebration of dancing that broke forth! Here’s to ushering in a new era of global child welfare together!