Author Archives: shantelw

Approaching the 6 Month Mark

6months

What does 6 months as a case planner look like? I’m not quite sure about anyone else, but as I gear up to reach the 6 month mark, for me, it looks like finally having some vacation time. It looks like having short-term memory loss and an even shorter attention span. It looks like 4 kids going home to a parent, 1 adoption and countless referrals, conversations and phone calls. It looks like rolling my eyes at the FCLS attorney, arguing with ACS, laughing with birth parents/foster parents and smiling at all the precocious things children do. I thought that by the time I finally reached 6 months, I would have it mostly figured out- that I would have found the perfect balance between doing the work and finding the time to still pursue the things that move me forward. Alas, I have not. I still work from 9 AM until 9 PM, never finding the time to sit before a piano and practice. I find myself prioritizing appointments and visitations for my clients during the time when I have my own personal appointments and then arriving to my voice lessons in the city over an hour and a half late. Some days I don’t comb my hair because I’m rushing to court for a morning general call and then I still don’t get before a judge before 4PM. I have kids sneeze in my face and babies puke on my shirt while their parents look sheepish. I still find myself unable to say “no” when parents ask me for one more favor or to do just one more thing. Most days I feel like I am doing something wrong or I’m not doing enough even when I know that I am doing the best that I can. Some days I sit at my desk feeling so lost and confused as the list of things the court and my families expect from me piles up. Endless B2H referrals, drug treatment referrals, parenting classes, getting updates from schools and service providers, following up with my parents to see if they are getting what they need from me, while trying to make sure that my families’ emotional needs are being met. Gosh, THIS is what 6 month looks like. It also happens to be what the one year mark looks like, the five-year mark looks like and even the twenty-five year mark looks like. I’ve watched my co-workers who have been at the agency for 5-20 years as case planners. Their days never get easier or more uniform. There’s always more to know and even more to do. So how do they push forward and find time to do good work? They maintain balance sharing their sense of humor and telling some of the most unbelievable stories.  They spend hours talking to each other about their cases, they ask if anyone has any referral recommendations and when all else fails, they do what they can and stop when they need to, because tomorrow is also another day. They know that they are not there to fix people’s lives and that they are a resource. 

This is what my 6 months looks like.

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I Laughed

I laughed more last week than I had any week since I started this job.

I wasn’t laughing because anything was precisely funny

I just laughed to keep from crying

Between drunk ex boyfriends attacking an adoptive resource

And elementary school aged children revealing what kind of sexual activities their parents engaged in

To birth parents being back on the streets and using

I had to laugh.

I laughed because all my cases seemed to go crazy just in time for Halloween

I laughed about my birth parents being so exploratory in the bedroom

I laughed about one of my co-workers seeing my birth parent on the streets and ducking so they wouldn’t be seen.

I had to laugh.

If I didn’t laugh

I would concentrate on the fact that I might lose a wonderful adoptive resource because of Domestic violence.

I would think about my kids being exposed to or experiencing inappropriate sexual behaviour

I would think about my kid who said, I don’t care when I asked him where his mom was, but who later confided that the only time he didn’t worry about her was when she was locked up because that meant she was safe.

I would cry.

And I think it would have been too much to deal with and I wouldn’t have wanted to be there.

So instead I laughed and laughed and laughed

And found the strength to be a resource for another day.

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A Foster Mother’s love

The news tells us that foster parents are monsters. They tell us that they don’t love the children in their care or even think about their well-being. They say that they are only in it for the money but honestly I know better.  What do you say to a foster parent  who cries out of concern for the well being of a child?  What do you say to that foster parent who is concerned that a parent may not be quite ready for their kids to come home? In the three weeks that I have been a foster care worker, I have not come across not even one foster parent who is in it just for the money. These people who have opened their homes to children who are not their blood have also opened up their hearts. Earlier this week I went grocery shopping with a foster parent and her two boys. These two boys have been in care for over 5 years and I was struck by how much of a family they looked and sounded like with their foster mom. As a family they bought things together. As a family they laughed and shared jokes. Like little kids who trust their parents to give them what they wanted, the boys would run through the aisles of the super market grabbing things that they wanted and bringing it back to their foster mother. She would laugh and say no to a lot of the items that they wanted because most of it was junk but occasionally she would say yes. I could see the bond between the foster mom and her boys. Boys whose files are filled with history of violence and medication, but boys whom this foster mother has gotten through to and love none the less. Foster parents are not doing the job for the money. Everyone has their own reason for why they do the job but that reason doesn’t mean that they can’t give the child what they need. Seeing these things this past week have helped me see a part of the overall child welfare system that works really well. It made me see why I chose to join Children’s Corp and why social work will be a good fit for me.

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A year from now

A year from now I’ll laugh. I’ll laugh as I remember the advice my co-workers gave me about how to deal with difficult family members and birth parents. Ill laugh at the speed of which I learned names and remembered faces. I’ll laugh at how long It took me to travel around boroughs. I’ll laugh at the attitudes of Judges and Lawyers. I’ll laugh at my lack of understanding of simple terms and phrases that I read on connections and heard tossed around the office.. I’ll laugh as I remember how my office phone never used to ring. I’ll laugh at how little I knew and how many questions I asked. But for now, these are all things that I’m struggling with. Today is the end of my first week as a social worker and all in all, Its been an easy and a very difficult week. Its been easy because I have not actually done any real work yet. I have just been shadowing more experienced case workers and sitting in on wily FTC’s, but It is also difficult because I am beginning to get an understanding of what my role will really be like and I am terrified. The role of case worker is time consuming and all encompassing. It is the role of services provider, baby sitter, mediator, file clerk, note taker,therapist and life coach. I wonder if my life thus far has prepared me for these roles. I don’t think it has but I know that once I begin in my role as a case planner, Ill need to get prepared really fast. These thoughts are really scary but I am excited for the changes that I know are coming.

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