Birthed by Fire – Reborn as a Caseworker! :)

Although I was officially born as a human being on March 9th, 1987 in Winner, SD (because I’m a “winner!”),  I feel now as if  I am in the process of being reborn, no longer as just a human being, but as a Caseworker by FIRE!  I have not been officially reborn yet and am technically still on my epic journey down the fiery foster care birth canal….if you will :).  I seriously feel like Spiderman….like I’m going through this crazy transformation because some foster care bug/spider or maybe a small child came and bit me and turned me into a Caseworker.  All of a sudden, I’ve started wearing a cape and an awesome spandex bright green uniform with the letters CW in hot pink across my chest.  My super power is being able to type progress notes in 7 seconds, FASPS in 33 seconds, and PH reports in 46 seconds flat.  I’m still developing these powers….hey Spiderman wasn’t super good with shooting that web stuff out of his hands right away either….give me a break, I’ve only been on the job for a month and a week! 🙂

I’m in the process of re-learning how to walk, talk, and act now through being reborn as a caseworker, so that’s why it’s taken me sooooo long to blog….didn’t have the developmental blogging skills until today :).  So, now the question remains, how do I reflect on what’s been like a month and a half of my epic journey through fire?  The answer is I cannot, but I will do my best to convey just how much I have taken and ran with over this time on the job through this blog and further future blogs. Actually, through taking and running with so much information, I recently tripped and sprained my foot, so yeah I’m going have to limp you through my reflections if that’s cool.  I’m thinking of special ordering a cane…..I know I joke a lot, but I’m serious about this.  Why would anyone joke about special ordering a cane?

First of all, I have to give a shout out to my agency in the Bronx and say that I absolutely love it and I feel extremely lucky to be working there!  I work in the adolescent foster care unit, so I do youth development work with youth from the ages of 14-20, and I mainly have older youth nearing 21….so yeah I’m not too much older than my youth!  My agency believes in splitting up foster care casework between younger children and adolescents because they view the casework you do for those two age groups as very different youth development work that should be tailored to each age group.  I have to say I completely agree with this concept and am enjoying learning more about youth development work for adolescents and what works and does not.  Every caseworker and specialist in the adolescent unit is super-duper friendly and welcoming, stopping by my cubicle to introduce themselves, checking in to see how I am doing, and offering help when needed.  The office atmosphere is really close-knit and they all have each other’s backs, which is extremely important when it comes to the work we do.  My supervisor is extremely helpful and supportive, and someone I know I can go to about anything.  The first day on the job I arrived and she brought me to my cubicle and said, “Welcome Home!” while simultaneously someone blew a foghorn signaling a fire drill!  (Actually I’m not sure if it was a foghorn, but let’s just go with it for now)  So, before I could even settle into my first official caseworker cubicle, we all had to start making our way out the door and to safety on the street. I turned to my supervisor and said, “Boss, is there some type of protocol for when new caseworkers start their first day of work that someone immediately blows a fog-horn for a fire drill right as they attempt to sit down at their cubicle?!?”  She laughingly said yes, yes there is.   At that moment, I knew it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship with my sup. I also felt very prepared should there ever be, God-forbid, a fire at the agency.  Looking back now on this fire drill, it seems to fit well with the fact that I feel like I’m being birthed by fire……my office must have sensed that there really was a “fire” upon my arrival….so yeah it probably should be proper protocol of the agency, and that will be my first progressive change that I will attempt to bring to the foster care system! :p

As much as I like to fill my life with humor to get me through, I have to say that this work is truly changing my life in a very serious way. Everyday is an adventure full of surprises, heart-warming moments, sad times, babies, craziness, tons of paperwork, and the occasional, yet brief, down moments where I remember to eat, breathe, and be mindful and aware of my life experience happening in the present moment.  When I am able to find the time to be truly present in myself, I realize just how amazing my now really is as a caseworker in foster care.  I feel incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity to do such meaningful work with youth and families.  I really am taking to heart the concept that you cannot help solve everyone’s problems overnight and that change takes time and is a process that you must stick with,  looking for the little successes along the way to celebrate and motivate you to continue doing the very important and difficult work you do.  I have also learned that sometimes the biggest help you can provide anyone is just showing up and being a consistent presence in people’s lives. Instead of always wanting to give advice and offer solutions to everything right away, if you just listen, acknowledge people’s struggles, empathize with them if you can, giving them the space to feel what they feel and experience what they are experiencing, then that in itself is helpful.

From my life experiences,  I have found that when I allow myself the space and time to truly have my experiences and learn to accept my present situation whatever it may be, good or bad, instead of wanting to hold on to a moment that I have labeled as “good” or flee from a moment that I’ve labeled “bad,” then I gain much-needed clarity.  It’s like taking a step back and just being present in your situation, not judging it as good or bad, but just allowing it to exist, because it does, whether you want it to or not.  The truth is nothing lasts forever, and you can choose to accept this, or deny this.  I’ve found that once I accept that everything passes, the good times and the bad,  I am much more at peace and am able to better live my life and find solutions to problems or ways to let go of something I’m holding on to that is no longer there.  When I am at peace, my interactions with others are more peaceful and I in turn pass peace on to others, which is the only way I believe I can truly help others in this life.  I hope to cultivate this for myself, so that I can help others cultivate it for themselves and in essence be their own advocates of change and peace in their own lives.



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3 responses to “Birthed by Fire – Reborn as a Caseworker! :)

  1. Rachel (intern)

    Danielle–I LOVED reading your post! I feel like I really got a sense of how you’re changing the work that is done there, and how it is changing you. Keep it up!

  2. Mary

    Your words, especially in your last paragraph, resonate strongly with Buddhist thinking! Live in the moment, for the moment, and try not to get caught up in labels cause they don’t mean anything! I don’t know if you (or any other bloggers!) are religious, I’m not, but of course I respect your beliefs whatever they are.

    If you’re open to it, here are a few books that have really helped frame my thinking around staying in the moment, especially in the rough ones (with myself and with clients, family, supervisors, er… not Barry and Viv they’re awesome :D)

    The Art of Happiness – the Dalai Lama & Howard Cutler, MD
    discusses Buddhist philosophy through a very Western lens, how it’s applicable to anyone from any culture, not “teaching Buddhism” exactly, more a philosophical application to real life stuff, hits home for me the whole way through (and I’m not religious!)

    The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle
    talks directly about how easily it is to project your thoughts into the future or to dwell in the past, and how useless this can be when it becomes a habit! so true. it’s a little soap-boxish/motivational speakerish though, so you just have to decide you’re not going to let that aspect drive you up the wall and the rest is great!

  3. danielleheinert

    Thank you Rachel and Mary for reading and not peacing out midway through….I get a tad bit wordy or blogy if you will.

    Mary –
    I am familiar with Tolle and The Power of Now, and that is where I was first introduced to these ideas, actually. I love Ekhart Tolle…..he just exudes peace and I watch some of his videos on youtube sometimes and I actually fall asleep to him at times because he is so darn peaceful….although I believe the point is to be “awakened.” Haha 🙂

    I’m reading an awesome book right now called What Really Helps by Karen Kissel Wegela, PhD, which is about using mindfulness and presence to help, support, and encourage others. 🙂 It is a really great book that I find extremely pertinent to casework, so if you are interested you should check it out! 🙂

    I will check out the other book you mentioned because it sounds great! Thank you for the suggestion. 🙂

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