Author Archives: Rachel Spencer

The Mom Who Wasn’t

A little story: this (Saturday) morning I went to visit one of my kids at a psychiatric hospital. It was quite a trek, but I was able to see him and check up on how he is doing. He is having a great time there, and that’s the sad part. He loves this hospital as it seems to provide him with a sense of safety, attention, and friendship with the other kids that he is lacking otherwise. His current foster home placement has been a stable one, and he will return there soon, but this little boy’s needs are very demanding. He spoke to us not too long ago about wanting to go back to the hospital as he “has friends there,” and then his sudden, violent outbursts at school and in the foster home accomplished just that…

Anyhow, as I was signing out to leave the facility, all the children filed past me on their way to play outside. I waved to J., smiled and said goodbye again. One of the children in the line yelled in passing, “Hey! That’s J’s mom!!”

I was amused by the comment at first, as was the security team at the desk. To be his mom, that would mean I had him at age 13. Also, I am a 23 year old who can usually pass for a 16 year old. When reflecting upon it after, however, the incident struck me as saddening, not amusing. Why wouldn’t the other children assume that the woman visiting him was his mother? The fact is, his mother has not visited, and she probably will not. To the other kids, it appeared that J. had a parent who cared to come and check up on him, and they can be left to believe that…

 

Note: In order to protect the identity of this child I have used a random initial to name him.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Members

Thoughts on Today

Today I was struck by just how unpredictable our work really is. As a person, I am a planner. I am organized and go about my work and life in a strategic manner. This characteristic certainly helps me as I work out schedules of home visits and re-schedule agency visits to be as efficient as possible. I have learned to never ever use anything but pencil as I must record and change and change again meetings and visits in my bright red agenda pad. I feel I have adapted somewhat to the constantly flow of change surrounding “set plans.” No quiet or dull moment at the agency remains so for long. No unscheduled afternoon isn’t waiting to be filled by a last-minute visit.

Today, however, I felt like I was faced with something entirely unforeseen- even though it should have been anticipated. Unlike a last minute effort to accompany teenage boys to be enrolled in school or a question catching me off-guard in a permanency hearing, today I was given a new case. It was essentially plopped on my desk. And that was it. Three of my girls are on trial discharge to their father, so I should have seen this coming. But, I did not expect it in the rare moment of quiet I was experiencing while updating documents at my desk. The day was just winding down. She said it was 2 year old girl who was hospitalized with bruises and cuts and removed from her mother. Then she walked away..

As I rushed off to do the initial home visit, I was struck by how strange and afraid I felt. At this point into the job, I feel used to running off to visit new, unfamiliar neighborhoods and meeting new people. I couldn’t quite get why this one moved me in such a way. After I was done with the visit, I realized that it was my first real case. Not a case I inherited after joining a caseload and a team in the middle of a month- one I will be involved with from the beginning. The fact that it is a little girl who kept on showing me the boo-boos on her foot just made it hit that much deeper. I felt thrown into a family’s life in a way that I have not before, despite the minimal time I spent with them today and the countless hours I have spent already at the agency.

1 Comment

Filed under Members

A Little Inspiration…

My first post!

Now, at the beginning of week 3, I feel as if I could write pages and pages on my experiences in Children’s Corps training thus far… However, I would like to instead share something I came across yesterday. While reading the news publication The Week, I encountered the following excerpt from Toni Morrison’s commencement address to Rutger’s class of 2011. Her words stuck with me and were called to my mind continuously during training today. As we shared our common feelings surrounding the often exhausting effort to express to others what type of work we will be doing, Toni’s words seemed to resonate so clearly! I feel she so eloquently articulates that energy and drive that lead us all to be involved with Children’s Corps. Her words serve as a powerful reminder of why we want to work in child welfare and identify as optimistic, idealistic, and change-making individuals.

“I have often wished that Jefferson had not used that phrase, “the pursuit of happiness”, as the third right—although I understand in the first draft was “life, liberty and the pursuit of property.” Of course, I would have been one of those properties one had the right to pursue, so I suppose happiness is an ethical improvement over a life devoted to the acquisition of land; acquisition of resources; acquisition of slaves. Still, I would rather he had written life, liberty and the pursuit of meaningfulness or integrity or truth.

I know that happiness has been the real, if covert, goal of your labors here. I know that it informs your choice of companions, the profession you will enter, but I urge you, please don’t settle for happiness. It’s not good enough. Of course, you deserve it. But if that is all you have in mind—happiness—I want to suggest to you that personal success devoid of meaningfulness, free of a steady commitment to social justice, that’s more than a barren life, it is a trivial one. It’s looking good instead of doing good.

There is serious work, truly serious work, for you to do. I know you have been blasted with media designed to change you from citizens to consumers, and most recently, simply tax payers; from a community of engaged civic life, to individuals with hundreds of electronic friends; from a yearning for maturity to a desire for eternal childhood. That’s the media’s role. But I tell you, no generation, least of all mine, has a complete grip on the imagination and goals of subsequent generations; not if you refuse to let it be so. You don’t have to accept media or even scholarly labels for yourself: Generation A, B, C, X, Y, [majority], minority, red state, blue state; this social past or that one. Every true heroine breaks free from his or her class—upper, middle, and lower—in order to serve a wider world.

Of course, you’re general and you have to function as a group sometimes. But you are also singular. You are a citizen in society and a person like no other on the planet. No one has the exact memory that you have. So far, no one has your genetic duplicate. These are not paralyzing clashes. They represent the range and the depth of human life. What is now the limit of human endeavor is not the limit of intelligent endeavor. And what is now known is not at all what you are capable of knowing. There is much serious, hard and ennobling work to do. And, bit-by-bit, step-by-step, you can change things—the things that need changing.”

The core message of Toni’s speech is expressed in the discussions and comments offered in the training room everyday- that we can seek to improve society by enabling others and, in doing so, infuse our own lives with meaning. Spending my days with the intelligent and caring Children’s Corps team feeds my desire to keep working for change and for something more.

3 Comments

Filed under Members