Talking about your own personal history can be a challenge. Who wants to rummage through the cupboards of one’s mind, looking for trinkets and perhaps discovering the occasional spider?

Nathan Ross goes deep into his history however, using it as a tool. As The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Sherman Smith wrote last week, Ross endured unimaginable tragedy in watching the deaths of two of his brothers at the hands of his mother.

The vice president of children and youth programs at FosterAdopt Connect, Ross urged state child advocacy group leaders to put competition aside and unite to help kids.

His call to action says as much — in fewer words — than any editorial: “Every minute we spend fighting each other, and backstabbing over who gets what program and how much, children are dying, and that’s not acceptable. This isn’t corporate America, where it makes sense that we’re going to compete because our goal is to raise money. This is human services, where our goal is to save lives, and we can’t save lives when we’re fighting each other.”

Many children who come in contact with the child welfare system don’t have the option of closing off or limiting their exposure to a troubled past. The challenges they went through are woven into the very fabric of their lives.

Everyone agrees that ultimately the best solution to fixing a foster care system is making that system as good as possible, but also as unnecessary as possible. What does that mean? That means in empowering families and making sure they have the resources needed to take care of children.

In Ross’s case, social workers interacted with the family but didn’t ask the tough questions or take decisive actions that would have made a difference for the family.

Even the best intentions of governments and nonprofits won’t be able to eradicate every single source of childhood trauma. But we can make things better. Ross raising his voice should brace not only advocates, but everyone in Kansas for the importance of caring for kids in the most vulnerable situations.

The job is enormous. Those in the system are the most at risk for tragic stories. But we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Together, we can help more children and improve their lives. Together, we can listen to Ross and take his difficult words to heart.