By kfreeland - November 7, 2014

“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”

African Proverb

By Katie Freeland

There are countless adages that involve teamwork and collaboration. There is no “I” in team. Many hands make light work. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. You’ve heard them before. You know that teamwork is good.  But when stakes are potentially high, and resources are low or inaccessible, collaboration is fundamental to success.

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.

Henry Ford

In 2012, about eight out of every 1,000 children in California were victims of abuse, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More than four children die every day as a result of abuse. A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.

Tackling a wide scale public health problem can be daunting, and even more so when resources are scarce, but that doesn’t stop the much-needed work from getting done, especially at the county of San Bernardino Children’s Network. While the statistics are certainly disheartening, the thought of helping individuals, families, and ultimately communities is what keeps these workers going.

“Children’s Network is kind of the central agency that coordinates all of the other county agencies as well as community organizations that serve children, families, and youth,” says Lesford Duncan, MPH, a 2012 graduate of Loma Linda University School of Public Health. Duncan is the Child Abuse Prevention Coordinator at Children’s Network in San Bernardino County. “What I do there is help in managing the campaigns to prevent child abuse, and not only child abuse as we think about it, but also to promote resilience within families.”

The overall goal of Children’s Network, states the website, “is to help at-risk children by improving communication, planning, coordination, and cooperation among youth-serving agencies.”

Children’s Network has a plethora of services, partnerships, and programs in order to better educate and assist families and prevent child abuse. “We address a number of topics including child abuse prevention and reporting, we encourage community members throughout San Bernardino county to dial 211 if they even suspect child abuse,” says Duncan. “We also address shaken baby syndrome, safe sleep, and I am also a part of the Inland Empire Father Involvement Coalition (IEFIC) to reduce father absenteeism and to get fathers more engaged in the lives of their children.” The IEFIC is a partnership of several county’s and community-based organizations, including Children’s Network, he says.

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

George Bernard Shaw

Another example is CASE, the Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation at Children’s Network, coordinated by Anne-Michelle Ellis.

“The collaboration in this county is pretty amazing. There’s a lot of positive stuff going on. There are community agencies with bare-bones budgets that are doing some amazing work in our community, and really engaged with people,” says Ellis. One way to get around a bare-bones budget is innovation and thinking outside of the box.

“You have to be very creative, and you have to have that conversation of ‘What can I bring to the table and what can you bring to the table, and how do we make a full picture out of all of our different pieces?’ I see a lot of that.”

The amount of collaboration between groups and individuals working within San Bernardino County is commendable, if not for its lack of resources, then for the successful execution of its programs. The ideas each person brings to the table are combined to create that complete picture.   

“Our county is unique in its sense of collaboration,” says Duncan, who, after graduating from LLU SPH, took a policy job in Los Angeles but soon after returned to San Bernardino. “The reason I came back was because I saw how close knit our county was and how supportive agencies were, and how willing, ready, and eager people are to put egos aside, put pride aside, to put selfish needs and funding aside, to provide services that our county really needs.”

Public health is a team effort, and going it alone is simply not an option. Success within the community means going together. To be a part of a community means to be a part of something bigger than you. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. 

The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.

Phil Jackson

“Loma Linda University is a huge component, a puzzle piece to San Bernardino county, and the role that Loma Linda plays providing expertise, providing support and developing community organizations in terms of putting out highly qualified and highly educated students is so important and so critical,” says Duncan. “We’re a part of the global community. Things that we do here have an impact.”