Monthly Archives: December 2011

Recent Thoughts

I Have not posted in a bit so here are some recent thoughts:

I have been moved to the adolescent unit recently and I’m glad for it. Its not like I don’t like cute little button nosed kids I love them!  They are full of innocence and if they are young enough I have the hope of getting them out of foster care before they can even remember they were in it. You don’t have to worry about a little baby going out all night and missing your home visit or AWOLING or having suicidal thoughts, or cursing and rolling their eyes or not going to school or fighting in school, joining a gang, and using hard drugs, getting pregnant etc. The list goes on. However, I like the potential challenges.  I mean isn’t that what Social Services is about? Isn’t that what Children’s Corp. is about? And isn’t that what I’m about? I hope I am or at least I try to be.

I have a co-worker who always corrects me when I say “my kids.”  My co-worker thinks it’s too possessive and too attaching I guess.  However, I don’t always feel comfortable or like calling them “cases” even though sometimes I do.  I have this many cases or that many clients. It seems little too impersonal especially when I’m talking to the kids directly or about them.  Plus, I think it actually helps me if I think of them as kids any way.  What’s wrong with it being a little personal sometimes? Is it possible to care too much? What if it was my own kid?  It reminds me of the conversations we had during training.  Everyone has their own comfort zone.  I understand the other perspective though and have seen first hand the dangers of getting too attached.  I have had foster parents become too attached and unable to let go.  However, I trust myself to care enough to let go.

I got my first remand case.  It ruined my day; it’s possibly the worst thing ever.  Two kids who were sent home are now back to square one again.  It’s like the old Mario brothers game when you get hit by a turtle and have to start the whole freaking level all over again.  It’s like ground hogs day with Bill Murray.  What a nightmare.  I have to have a transition meeting again. A parent to parent meeting again. I have to do an initial visit again.  I have talk to the same foster mother again.  The same CPS worker again.  The same birth mother again.  The kids have to have entrance medicals again.  What is worse is that me and the birth mother didn’t leave on particularly good terms.  Of course I was to blame for her children being in care and she had had her day in court and found justice against me and the system.  She had won and her children had been returned.  She told me she would never come back to the agency.  I laughed a little inside as she went at me knowing that nothing made me happier than her children going home.  But here we are again.

Is it weird that I saw the new Children Corp. 2012 application opened it and thought long and hard about filling it out again just to see if Viv and Barry would pass over my application? Or see if I would answer the questions the same way I did previously.  I looked over the application and realized that it really does a good job asking the right questions and putting the person applying in the right mindset to decide whether this is an experience they not only want, but need to have.  I’m happy for Children Corp. and I cannot wait to meet the next 25 motivated and enlightened individuals.

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Ilena’s Testimonial

Working in foster care is incredibly challenging. You want to do
everything for your kids and sometimes you can’t make a single thing
go right for them, and it can feel like you’ve made things worse.
Children’s Corps taught me to appreciate the little things. I didn’t
realize how frustrated, overwhelmed, and helpless I’d feel but I also
didn’t realize how much joy I would get from making a surly
fifteen-year-old giggle, talking to a seventeen-year-old about the
tattoo he got in honor of his grandma, and seeing the look of wonder
upon the face of a West African teenager the first time he saw Grand
Central Station. Children’s Corps taught me to appreciate everything
there is to appreciate, and keeps reminding me when I forget.

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What I’m thankful for

It was the day before Thanksgiving, and I was sitting in the office with a few other new caseworkers who had not requested the day off, and I was antsy to get out of work. The next morning I would be boarding a bus and meeting all of my family members at a relative’s house for some delicious food, relaxation, and quality family time.

For the previous three weeks, I had been trying to understand and mediate different conflicts that were occurring between a 16-year old on my caseload (who I will call Brian for this post) and his foster mother. Brian’s goal has already been changed to APPLA, which would have him age out of the foster care system into “independent living,” which I frequently tell co-workers that I think was a terrible move for him.

That afternoon, the foster mother came into the office and gave her 10-day notice for Brian to be removed from her home. I knew Brian fairly well at this point, after working with him for three months or so, and I knew that despite his conflicts with her, he would be absolutely devastated. I thought about him occasionally during the four-day holiday weekend, particularly as I spent time with my immediate and extended families. I have twin brothers that are only one year younger than Brian, and I couldn’t help but think of Brian when interacting with them.

The following week, I had the opportunity to meet with Brian twice and make sure that I understood what he was thinking and feeling about the situation. He has so much anger and sadness, which is completely understandable, considering the fact that he has spent the past seven years of his life in foster care. Despite his incredibly challenging family situation, he is an honors student, has perfect school attendance, a good sense of humor, and has a great relationship with his therapist whom he sees weekly. I see so many strengths in him, so I was baffled by his foster mother’s refusal to work with him.

This past Friday evening, we held the placement preservation conference which is standard protocol that ACS requires before a child is removed from a foster home. The foster mother was given a chance to tell her side of the “story”, and was adamant that she had made up her mind. Brian was very upset, but my supervisor and I ensured that he would feel supported by including a variety of agency personnel at the meeting who knew him well and would help calm him down if needed. Following the conference, we were waiting for him to meet with a prospective foster parent, and he said to me, “You know, I wouldn’t mind having a foster mother who I can call mom some day.” APPLA? I don’t think so.

As I helped Brian pack up some of his belongings for a respite home for the weekend, he said to myself and my supervisor, “I cannot thank you guys enough for how much you have helped me.” Most days of foster care casework go by with little acknowledgement of my work, which is fine, but man did it feel good to hear him say that. I stayed late at work that evening, but I honestly enjoyed every minute of it. Brian’s strength and resiliency are so impressive, and I look forward to helping him and a new foster family work together. Even though I have been feeling overwhelmed and overworked lately, it is great to have moments like this that make my time worthwhile.

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Kim’s Testimonial

Do well in school. Go to college. Start a career. Make a lot of money. Start a family.

The natural progression of things as a white suburban girl born into a middle-class family with well-educated parents…

The thought of not going to college never even crossed my mind during high school. I worked as hard as I could to be a good student, have quality friends and a positive reputation. I went to the highest-accredited school I was accepted to, New York University, in the hopes of becoming a lawyer like my dad (or like Alex Cabot on Law and Order: SVU). I went to college as a right-winged and narrow-minded girl and graduated an accepting and much more understanding young adult. I never expected to do social work when I started college. That seemed like a career where I was never going to make enough money to support my poor shopping habits and I would have to listen to people cry to me all day. Not ideal. I was supposed to be on Wall Street or in a prestigious law firm. Turns out the right fit isn’t necessarily what was expected of me by everyone or, more importantly, what I expected for myself.

Sophomore year of college, I applied to an internship at a homeless shelter on a whim and almost didn’t go to the interview.

I stayed for two years.

For the rest of my undergraduate career, I interned at various non-profits located in the city teaching me what it’s like to work with a low-income population and how to navigate the world of Medicaid, homeless shelters, and finally foster care. I was interning at Hudson County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) who work with children in foster care, when I saw the posting for Children’s Corps. I immediately fell in love with the model. I had that “Say Yes to the Dress” feeling. I knew that this was for me. I had heard so many horror stories about foster care, but when reading more about Fostering Change for Children, the positive aspects outshined the negatives by a million.

This summer marked the beginning of my two year Children’s Corps journey. Starting with a five week training program, I met a group of my peers all with the same goal, to use our individual skills to help families. The energy in the training room this past summer only reinforced my feelings towards this work. As I learned about child welfare and how to navigate through a crazy system with many players all with different roles and all different opinions, I was excited to begin as a case planner. I knew that I was going to make my voice be heard. I genuinely felt that I could make a difference and that everyone in the room was going to touch at least one child’s life that may have gotten “lost in the system.” The amount of talent and perseverance in all of my fellow Children’s Corps members is truly inspiring.

I’m now a Case Planner. I make little money. I cannot imagine doing this work and starting a family. My life is not what I anticipated at all. I get yelled at multiple times a day by a foster parent, a birth parent, a judge or an attorney. I work late going to uncomfortable neighborhoods in the dark. I battle with service providers to get the reports I need. And then I supervise a visit with a mother who loves her child and the rest of my week seems completely worthwhile…

 

 

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