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.