I realize that I should have started blogging earlier, because by now, 2 weeks into the training, we have already done so much that there is no way I can cover everything. Coming into this, I did not know what the training was going to consist of and had trouble explaining to people what it was I’d be doing. Now, I myself have a better idea of what I will be doing for the next two years, but still have a difficult time explaining it to other people, but that’s mostly because this training is not like anything I have ever done before. It is a combination of team-building, job preparation, Social Work 101, and activities to train us in self-awareness, but every day is something new, which keeps it exciting!
Today, we got the opportunity to meet Commissioner of Administration of Child Services in New York City, John Mattingly. It was really encouraging to hear him discuss ways that the child welfare system could be improved, such as recruiting passionate people who are dedicated to the work and then providing them with support from inside the system, because we are part of a program that is doing exactly these things. He also told us that in his opinion, the next two years of front line work that we will be doing will teach us the most and be the best work of our lives, and hearing that from someone so high in bureaucracy made me incredibly excited to get really get started working with families.
After we met with the commissioner, we were lucky enough to have two birth parents who had previously been personally involved in the child welfare system come to training to talk about their experiences. They both work as parent advocates now, which means that they and their families have been personally affected by the child welfare system, but they experienced a positive outcome or reunification, and now work to help other parents navigate the system to achieve the best outcomes for their families. They were so open about their experiences and willing to honestly share both the good and the bad with us. They told us about things that we could do as case workers to engage birth parents who are angry or resistant, but also helped us to see a birth parent’s perspective and when we may want to use a parent advocate as a resource on a case. To me, this was one of the first times that the parents and families I will be working with became real; being able to put a face and name to the term “birth parent” makes it so much easier to see myself working with them to help them reunite their families.
So far, we have had a full week of new topics and conversations, and I look forward to my shadowing this Friday, when I will get to observe family court for the first time.