I Have not posted in a bit so here are some recent thoughts:
I have been moved to the adolescent unit recently and I’m glad for it. Its not like I don’t like cute little button nosed kids I love them! They are full of innocence and if they are young enough I have the hope of getting them out of foster care before they can even remember they were in it. You don’t have to worry about a little baby going out all night and missing your home visit or AWOLING or having suicidal thoughts, or cursing and rolling their eyes or not going to school or fighting in school, joining a gang, and using hard drugs, getting pregnant etc. The list goes on. However, I like the potential challenges. I mean isn’t that what Social Services is about? Isn’t that what Children’s Corp. is about? And isn’t that what I’m about? I hope I am or at least I try to be.
I have a co-worker who always corrects me when I say “my kids.” My co-worker thinks it’s too possessive and too attaching I guess. However, I don’t always feel comfortable or like calling them “cases” even though sometimes I do. I have this many cases or that many clients. It seems little too impersonal especially when I’m talking to the kids directly or about them. Plus, I think it actually helps me if I think of them as kids any way. What’s wrong with it being a little personal sometimes? Is it possible to care too much? What if it was my own kid? It reminds me of the conversations we had during training. Everyone has their own comfort zone. I understand the other perspective though and have seen first hand the dangers of getting too attached. I have had foster parents become too attached and unable to let go. However, I trust myself to care enough to let go.
I got my first remand case. It ruined my day; it’s possibly the worst thing ever. Two kids who were sent home are now back to square one again. It’s like the old Mario brothers game when you get hit by a turtle and have to start the whole freaking level all over again. It’s like ground hogs day with Bill Murray. What a nightmare. I have to have a transition meeting again. A parent to parent meeting again. I have to do an initial visit again. I have talk to the same foster mother again. The same CPS worker again. The same birth mother again. The kids have to have entrance medicals again. What is worse is that me and the birth mother didn’t leave on particularly good terms. Of course I was to blame for her children being in care and she had had her day in court and found justice against me and the system. She had won and her children had been returned. She told me she would never come back to the agency. I laughed a little inside as she went at me knowing that nothing made me happier than her children going home. But here we are again.
Is it weird that I saw the new Children Corp. 2012 application opened it and thought long and hard about filling it out again just to see if Viv and Barry would pass over my application? Or see if I would answer the questions the same way I did previously. I looked over the application and realized that it really does a good job asking the right questions and putting the person applying in the right mindset to decide whether this is an experience they not only want, but need to have. I’m happy for Children Corp. and I cannot wait to meet the next 25 motivated and enlightened individuals.
So you thought I forgot where I came from hahaha not in the least I’ve been busy, but I have found time to write this before I get busy again. First, I would like to say that it was an amazing surprise to bump into Emily at Forestdale Inc. this week. Honestly it was good to see another Children’s Corp member doing their thing. I did feel bad because I wanted to sit down and discuss our experiences so far, but I was so busy I only had time to help Emily find my boss as I was starting an FTC meeting.
Anyway, my first three weeks are over as I wait for my fourth to begin. Some observations: First, I don’t know how people do this job in queens without a car. Having my car to do the visits makes the job a lot easier and helps me be way more flexible on when I can see everyone. Second, it’s good to write things down and to constantly update your to do list, because it’s almost impossible to remember everything you have to do without writing it down. Third, one of the first things I did when I got my caseload was look up whose birthdays were around the corner. I remember Barry mentioning how important it was to at least call your children if they are old enough and say Happy Birthday. So I did that this week and I think she was happy I remembered. Fourth, if you don’t know how to change a poopy diaper you should learn. Barry and Viviane told us to be flexible, but this was not what I had in mind.
As far as Children’s Corps goes I hope you all are having wonderful experiences and if you need to talk give me a call I will listen as long as it is not in the middle of an FTC meeting, Quarterly Review, Staff Meeting, Training, Court, or Visit. Hahaha just kidding hit me up if you want. See you all next MONTH!!
So my second day of shadowing at my agency was very eventful. The day started when I was sent with my future supervisor on a foster parent and child visit. While we drove, my supervisor explained to me the important things to look for when visiting a home. These included the children’s bedrooms and their general health. This visit was of particular interest to me because not only was it my first visit, but also because I was told that this case would be assigned to me once I started in August. So as one can expect I was not only interested but nervous as well. In the car, the supervisor mentioned that she was particularly interested in seeing how I interacted with the children who were 2 years old and 2 months old. I understood that I needed to make a good impression on the children and the foster mother.
In the home, the 2 year old was shy at first. My supervisor had told me to expect this, but it quickly changed. As the supervisor and the foster mother chatted, I went about playing with the 2 year old. She was interested in the coloring books and we did that for a while. Admittedly, it was hard to focus on coloring while trying to overhear the questions and answers between the foster mother and supervisor, but I managed to keep my focus well enough on both to take away an educational as well as playful experience. In fact, as we left, the supervisor immediately asked me to verbalize what I would write in my progress notes. I mentioned the good health of both children, and the general clean environment in which they lived. I mentioned that the bedroom had room to walk between the bed and the dresser. In addition, the two month old had a proper crib in the foster mother’s room. The supervisor was satisfied as we drove off.
When we returned to the agency, I was quickly handed a stack of cases to look over. Since I am starting in August, my agency wanted me to get acquainted with some of the cases I will be taking on. I got through the first one, which seemed to be as thick as a thesaurus before I was told to sit in on a 6 month Family Team Conference.
By the end of the day, all I could think was where did the time go? Between visiting a home and sitting in on a Family Team Conference, the day was almost completely gone. Every hour and every minute is important in this job and I will have to use this time efficiently. However, being at the agency before I start is an important experience because it lets me see the process in motion. Seeing everyone at the agency get the job done makes me know that it is hard but doable if you put in the work and you call your clients back.
WOW. What a day. Today might have been one of the most inspiring days of our training. If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at begin to change and Stop, think, and then act: these are some of the lessons imparted to us by a man who’s seen it and done it and done it again. His story, as seen through several moments in time, was really about answering the question: What is unconditional love? It is love without qualifications or exceptions and it is a love that many children unfortunately do not have. It reminds me of when our instructor, Mike, talked about privilege and what it means. In this discussion, we thought about privilege as it relates to money, property, and education. However, unconditional love is overlooked and is probably the most valuable resource one can have. To have someone who will be
there for you no matter how down on your luck you may be is a privilege that is underappreciated.
Another point the speaker made was about changing one’s perspective on a person. In order to see a person correctly, one must understand what that person has gone through. It reminds me of an earlier moment in our training when Barry pointed out the example of the man stealing a loaf of bread. Does it change your perspective on the situation if you knew that he only stole the loaf of bread because he had starving kids to feed? If you didn’t know what the desperate man was going through, you might simply label him a criminal or a bad person. Children need this same understanding. It was inspiring to see a man with such a passion for this empathic and non-judgmental philosophy. It is a philosophy that we will need in this new profession as well as a philosophy which can help us in life in general.
Today’s lecture on vicarious trauma was an interesting take on something that I had simply thought of as an emotional reaction. This lecture was a double edged sword for me. On the one hand it was helpful for me to recognize the things that relax me and the things that bring about feelings of stress, burnout and vicarious trauma. In doing this I can better understand myself and others and try to remedy and prepare for these situations. On the other hand, simply discussing this fact was stressful in itself. Honestly, I am not used to preparing to be stressed in this way. I like to recognize and understand the issues and hardships involved with whatever goal I wish to undertake, but preparing to be stressed seems to be more of a vaccine than a cure. Yet, I understand the motive behind this strategy. Training is not only for us to prepare to be good people and good case workers, but to be strong minded and not easily broken. We must bend but not break.
Tomorrow we are supposed to discuss the topic of adoption. The article, Adoption and Grief, provides an interesting take on adoption, but I do not necessarily agree with it. However, it is possible I am misreading it or missing the point. The article starts out stating “Adoption and Grief: do they really go together? The answer is a resounding YES!” Resounding? I’m not so sure about that. Is it possible that some have experienced grief as it relates to adoption? Sure, but I am not sure it’s resounding. Like we have said over and over again in training, it depends. Grief seems to me to be an emotion of sadness in one’s own loss. The article speaks of adopted children having a feeling of grief associated with the loss of their birth parents. However, I believe you cannot have grief over something you never knew or had. For example, if you were adopted as a baby there is no grief for your birth parents since you never knew them. I would not describe an adopted child’s longing to find where he comes from as grief. Nor would I describe an adopted child’s experience with difference as grief. I believe you can feel all these things and at the same time be perfectly happy with your situation. Further, I disagree with the article’s statement that age does not matter. I believe it is a huge factor. The age at which you are adopted as well as how long you are in foster care creates a huge difference in one’s experience in foster care and especially adoption. If a ten year old child is adopted after spending ten years with his birth parents, it seems fitting that the child would have some level of grief about losing his birth parents, but a one month old child who is adopted will not have this same grief.
So I just got back from my first shadowing at my agency, and it was an amazing first experience. I felt like I got a small taste of a lot of things in just one day. The day started with Kim and me sitting in on a Quarterly Family Team Conference. The assistant executive director explained that at our agency. they have quarterly family team conference in conjunction with the 6 month Family Team Conferences. The only difference is that that at the quarterly conferences no parents or children are present. At the meeting, there were caseworkers and other staff including education advisors and medical assistants. The caseworkers went through each of their cases that were up for review. All the staff discussed the case and made recommendations. Without going into any of the cases discussed, what was important for me was to see just how involved all the staff members were in each case. It seemed that although the caseworkers were in charge of their cases, many of the other staff knew the cases and lent their support in the process. This amount of teamwork and cooperation was very nice to see especially as a new caseworker.
After the Family Team Conference, which took up most of the morning, I was paired up with a caseworker for the rest of the day. This was a very helpful, because it allowed me to ask her some of my many questions. Many of her responses simply reaffirmed much of what Barry has talked about in our training but it was nice to hear it also from a person who is doing it in my agency. We discussed everything from court procedure to time management to client relations to paperwork. I was also given the opportunity to meet a mother and child during an agency visit, while also meeting the foster mother of this child. In this situation, the mother and foster parent were not on good terms and I had to watch as the casework delicately balanced these two relationships.
By the end of the day, I ended up playing with the child on the stairs as I tried to teach him how to get a slinky to walk down the steps. He was a nice kid and it reminded me about the joy Barry has when he talks about social welfare and why it is all worth it. I am already in anticipating for next weeks shadowing when I will get my first opportunity to go on a home visit.
First, I want to congratulate Barry, Viviane, and all the interns for selecting a wonderful group of individuals (I must have been the wild card.) I have no doubt that every single person in this group is capable of doing a wonderful job. For one reason alone, you don’t just care! What I mean by this is that you don’t simply CARE – you DO. Many people care. They care about injustice. They care about poverty. They care about this and that, but for whatever reason, they don’t DO. No matter what happens going forward, whether you decide that this is your life calling or that you would rather do something else, you should be proud that you took the next step from just caring to actually trying to make change.
Second, I consider myself a pretty open book. It is not hard to get me to talk about almost anything if I like you, but I was surprised at the overall openness that the group has toward one another. The trust is unbelievable and I am honored to be given this level of trust in such a short time. I believe this ability to relate and trust those you do not know all too well will take us a long way in this field. One of the things I got from the last two weeks is that I cannot expect to be trusted if I cannot trust others. It reminds me of when Barry or Mike told us that a foster child once said, “I don’t care what you know until I know who you are.” Is it necessary to spill the beans on all your most personal issues to every client? Absolutely not, but sometimes in the right moment it is important to put yourself in a place of vulnerability. It’s like what Barry tells us over and over again – he tries never to ask to say or do something that he would not feel comfortable doing himself.
Third, my most pressing concern has been policy, procedure, and rules. Maybe it is my legal background, but rules are a focus for me since I like to think of myself as a big picture rather than a detail-oriented person. This being said, I have made the effort to get my hands on my agency’s policy and procedure manual (over 100 pages long) and go through it line by line. For some reason, this seems to be the scariest aspect of the job for me. I want to hit the ground running as best I can in my new position and most of all I do not want to drop the ball too much on the first few assignments. I know that this is a learning experience, but I want to try to be as best prepared as possible. Our instructors have done a superb job giving us all the information we need to be prepared, but at the same time I understand that part of the training that we are given is the knowledge that we cannot be prepared for everything. There is not a cut and dry answer to many of the questions we have. “It depends” is a very familiar line in law school. No two cases are the same and one can only build on what he has experienced. What training is doing for me is giving me general concepts so that I can recognize the issues. This is what it is all about: issue spotting, which again is similar to law school practice. I know that I will not always understand every client I meet, but I want to at least recognize the issues and concerns well enough so that I can present the best options.