Monthly Archives: June 2012

01: Return to Parent

Every month all of us Children’s Corps workers get together and socialize, vent, and check-in with one another. We talk about the ups and downs of the job and how we can work together to solve potential case issues. Every month my fellow corps members ask me how after all of these months, I still walk in with a smile on my face. How I’m always so happy with my job and my agency. Sure I have my bad days, but generally speaking, I have no real complaints every month.

I’ve been content with the way my cases have been going. Some are more difficult than others, but for the most part there is an end in sight. Most kids are going to go home and others will never return to their parents. I mean, that’s the goal right? Reunification? Permanency? And then what?

So four kids come into care and I worked with this family for 7 months to get them home. The mother fought me every step of the way for the fact that her children were in foster care and she deserved her kids back. I advocated for her as hard as I could to get her children returned. I went against everything ACS wanted and effectively forced them to return the kids. I put Preventative Services in place and said my goodbyes.

6 weeks later I get a phone call late Sunday night. The mother is sobbing to me saying that her kids are going to be removed and the cops were at her house. I was panic stricken. I instantly jumped in my car and went through multiple red lights to get there as fast as I could. I had no idea what I could accomplish by going, but all I could think was that someone was going to hurt these kids. When I got there, the mother and grandmother were screaming at one another with one on the street and the other in the apartment. The cops were about to leave saying there was nothing they could do. They left me to the wolves.

To summarize the rest of my evening that extended to the middle of the night, the situation was diffused and I removed the child from both her mother and grandmother’s care for fear that both of their emotional states made her at risk, but only for the night. The following morning, I confessed the situation to my supervisor. I was so hesitant to tell her that I went out into the field the night before. I knew she would be upset with me. I expected a reprimand for getting involved when it wasn’t my case anymore, but that’s not what I got. What I got was a harsh reality check.

She told me that she understood that I went out of the goodness of my heart, but I needed to work on my boundaries. She then continued on saying that there are no happy endings in this field and I needed to learn that now when I’m young. We work as hard as we can to get these kids home, but we have no idea what’s going to happen the following day. The problem is that she’s right. We don’t know what’s going to happen and we have to be okay with that.

I stopped telling people at the agency why I was upset after the 4th person made me feel like an idiot for going out into the field the previous night. I was told too many times that I need to learn to say no and I need to set limits. Then, the foster mother who was involved in the situation and picked up the child called me and told me that I saved the day. She said that if I hadn’t gone then the kids would have come back into care again. Unfortunately, I think all I did was postpone that for one more day. And if these kids do come back into care, is that the worst thing? The lines are getting blurrier by the day and I’m not sure what to believe anymore. Is reunification the happy ending that we’re looking for? Is that the rewarding feeling I’m supposed to feel?

1 Comment

Filed under Members

Are We Settling?: Revamping Foster Parent Selection

Sitting at a dinner the other day I asked the waiter to please strain my orange juice. I don’t like pulp, and yes, I sometimes can be very high maintenance. As the waiter  looked at me like I sat at the wrong table, I couldn’t help thinking about the parallels between my desire for strained Orange Juice and my wish for the system to better “strain” Foster Parents  (and yes, I can be this blunt as well).

I have had the honor to work with some of the most loving Foster Parents. Wonderful people who understand the difficulties the youth they take care of have been through, and the effects of trauma on a child’s development. They smile at you when you give them advice and work with you as much as it takes even though they are even busier than I am. They offer to cook for you since they think you look too skinny (just like my grandma used to) and they are more than willing to invest their time and attention in order to provide the most loving and caring environment for these youth,  They are not just offering their house but rather a warm and nurturing home.

I have unfortunately also worked with Foster Parents who are closed off, not willing to hear or discuss what they could be doing to help the youth they care for thrive.  And no matter how many times you explain to them how a youth in foster care has experienced a lot of trauma and that this trauma affects their behavior they still have unrealistic expectations of their charges  and wish they were different….more like “other” children. I have had countless conversations with Foster Parents about the language they use with and in front of the children and have on occasion gone as far as recommending the re placement of a youth because the foster home had become an unsafe environment. It is with a heavy heart that I make such a recommendation because bouncing kids around the system only causes them more instability and trauma and I worry about the next home, wondering if it will be safe.

So when I say “strain”, I mean, is it possible for the system to be more selective when choosing Foster Parents who will care for our children?  I understand how difficult it is to be a foster parent and that we don’t have millions of applicants but I can’t help but question if we should be accepting applicants who don’t quite understand the needs of our kids. I also don’t understand why the requirements for becoming a foster parent are so minimal and why foster parent trainings are so limited.

It feels like a Catch 22. Could we become better at recruiting more foster parents if we offered consistent and genuine support??  Even though agencies, I believe, have the best intentions to provide constant support for the families it seems that because of the lack of resources (that is the case in the Bronx where I work) this  sometimes ends up being an empty promise and foster parents feel abandoned and alone in their very difficult role.

After a long explanation to the waiter about what I meant by straining the orange juice, I got frustrated and decided to just get the orange juice with the pulp. Maybe this is what happens with Foster Parents in the system. In the ideal world we would like the most qualified, nurturing and perfect foster parents but sometimes we have to be content that individuals are stepping up to the plate to care for our kids and that even if they are not the perfect match it may be our only option.

Leave a comment

Filed under Members