Lets be real; not a lot of genuinely funny things happen in the foster care system. Going on a home visit, you’re in someone else’s territory, invading their space and taking time away from their busy schedule. It doesn’t really seem the ideal space to let your goofy freak flag fly. So here are some things I’ve learned about reigning in your own weirdo personality in the company of others; don’t.
I tried to tone down my personality, knowing it’s a bit much for certain people and situations, but I have to be honest; it’s not working. Being professional does not mean being a stiff. And in this field, being a stiff could even be considered being unprofessional. Do you follow? The fact that my seven year old client is doing imitations of my different voices and making fun of my knit-hat is a good sign. My sixteen year old laughing until she cried when I ran out of her kitchen due to a moth’s presence is a good sign. Trust me on that one.
Not only is it important to be yourself and own it, it’s important to allow others the same space and privilege. When I walked up to one of my teenager’s homes the other day and knocked on the door, I heard her yell to her mother, “The f’n stalker is here!”. First and foremost- I am totally a stalker. Not the scary kind, but I’m chasing these families down! I have to! So yeah, I’m calling you, your foster mother, your Case Worker, your teachers, and now I’m showing up at your house. I am a glorified, salaried, stalker. As a worker in a field that oftentimes lets people, families, and children down, I will in no way take offense to someone calling me a stalker. At least she knows I care.
Working with families in situations that could not be more different from my own has not only taught me a lot about owning my…stuff, it has taught me to own myself. The Coco. I own it! I am what I am, and at the very least, I have learned that being genuine and strange goes a lot further than being “professional” and fake. Sure, my kids think I’m a weirdo, and sure, my five year old called me “creepy” for watching him do homework, but what can I say. If taking your job seriously and caring for your families as if they are your own make you a creepy stalker, well hey, nice to meet you; I’m a creepy stalker.