Author Archives: kspadaro

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?

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Learning the Hard Way

We have heard multiple times about the ups and downs of this job. We listened to birth parents, foster parents, kids and workers tell us about the good and the bad for five weeks this summer. When I started this job, I had so many expectations and I felt like I needed to remember everything that was said during training so I didn’t mess up. I needed to watch my language to remain neutral and I should phrase things in a certain way in order to help kids understand. What I didn’t expect is how quickly I threw all of that out the window and just started acting like myself. I still use some of the key phrases that are ingrained in our memories such as “so what I hear you saying is…” or “how does that make you feel?” (Obviously in a less cliché and awkward way), but mostly I just feel like me. This job is so ambiguous, thus making it impossible to learn everything in a matter of weeks. However, from day one I started relationship building (the only thing I actually knew how to do) and making sure that everyone on my case load knew they could call me anytime. What I didn’t expect was to absolutely choke.

I was going to write this post last week after an FTC that went horribly wrong, but I thought that a bit of reflection on the experience would be much more beneficial than venting. This meeting was like watching a car crash from above and not knowing how to stop it, and I felt like the driver. I had a good relationship with the birth mom, and I said to her from the first day that she could expect me to always be honest even if it isn’t want she wants to hear. Instead of following through on that promise, I chickened out and didn’t have the heart to tell her we weren’t going to move her children like she desperately wanted. I planned an FTC so we could come to that conclusion “together”, but the reality of it was, the decision had already been made and the glaring looks across the table showed me that she figured that out pretty quickly. I felt like I had ambushed her instead of preparing her, but I knew that her response was going to be harsh and angry. She is no longer compliant and taking out her pain on her children. There is a part of me that feels like it’s my fault.

The goal of sharing this story is not for pity or self-deprecation, but rather as a learning experience for me and possibly other corps members. I thought that I was a strong person before this job, but I never had the ability to change someone’s life like this. I lost myself for a little bit, but now seeing the after-math of my poor judgment, I know how much better it would be to be screamed at ahead of time rather than try to fix something that you broke. Maybe the outcome would have been the same or maybe not. I’ll never know. Generally it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, but this job is not about doing what’s easy.

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Support (v): to keep from fainting, yielding, or losing courage

Now that training has ended, I look back and wonder where the last 5 weeks went. It’s unbelievable how in only a short amount of time, things can change so drastically. I walked into the room with 24 other people who were complete strangers and walked out a month later knowing that the same people will be in my life for the long haul. When applying for this job, I read about the three main goals of this new program. A rigorous recruitment process, a training program that prepares us for the some of the challenges that will arise in the field, and support for two years. The first two were self-explanatory for me, but the word “support” is so vague. I walked in thinking that I had a strong support system already. I have my friends and family who I can vent to or share my rewarding stories with so why would I need another group of people who don’t know me very well? Looking back, I went in with the completely wrong mindset, and I’m thrilled that my experience shifted that.

One of the greatest things about this program is that with the recruitment process and the training, the support came naturally. With such strong personalities, it’s almost impossible not to. One of my favorite quotes from this training was spoken by a foster parent who came to discuss his experiences with us. He stated, “Tough times change. Tough people don’t.” We are 25 tough people who I firmly believe will help each other through the tough times. I now truly understand the third component in Children’s Corps way. We have built our own support system that will guide us through the next two years and into whichever career paths we will take.

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