We have heard multiple times about the ups and downs of this job. We listened to birth parents, foster parents, kids and workers tell us about the good and the bad for five weeks this summer. When I started this job, I had so many expectations and I felt like I needed to remember everything that was said during training so I didn’t mess up. I needed to watch my language to remain neutral and I should phrase things in a certain way in order to help kids understand. What I didn’t expect is how quickly I threw all of that out the window and just started acting like myself. I still use some of the key phrases that are ingrained in our memories such as “so what I hear you saying is…” or “how does that make you feel?” (Obviously in a less cliché and awkward way), but mostly I just feel like me. This job is so ambiguous, thus making it impossible to learn everything in a matter of weeks. However, from day one I started relationship building (the only thing I actually knew how to do) and making sure that everyone on my case load knew they could call me anytime. What I didn’t expect was to absolutely choke.
I was going to write this post last week after an FTC that went horribly wrong, but I thought that a bit of reflection on the experience would be much more beneficial than venting. This meeting was like watching a car crash from above and not knowing how to stop it, and I felt like the driver. I had a good relationship with the birth mom, and I said to her from the first day that she could expect me to always be honest even if it isn’t want she wants to hear. Instead of following through on that promise, I chickened out and didn’t have the heart to tell her we weren’t going to move her children like she desperately wanted. I planned an FTC so we could come to that conclusion “together”, but the reality of it was, the decision had already been made and the glaring looks across the table showed me that she figured that out pretty quickly. I felt like I had ambushed her instead of preparing her, but I knew that her response was going to be harsh and angry. She is no longer compliant and taking out her pain on her children. There is a part of me that feels like it’s my fault.
The goal of sharing this story is not for pity or self-deprecation, but rather as a learning experience for me and possibly other corps members. I thought that I was a strong person before this job, but I never had the ability to change someone’s life like this. I lost myself for a little bit, but now seeing the after-math of my poor judgment, I know how much better it would be to be screamed at ahead of time rather than try to fix something that you broke. Maybe the outcome would have been the same or maybe not. I’ll never know. Generally it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, but this job is not about doing what’s easy.