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…