On my first day of shadowing at Children’s Aid Society during summer training, the executive director (aka child welfare guru) gave me a tour of the building. She briefly pointed to the Teen Foster Care unit and said, “All of those social workers have MSWs, so you probably won’t be working there.” We walked by and continued on with our tour.
Well, currently I’m writing from my new job as a socio-therapist in the Teen Foster Care unit! So….. surprise to me. I showed up for day 1 at my office in Manhattan and met with the two supervisors in Teen Foster Care. “We need a socio-therapist, and we want you,” they said. At once I felt surprised, caught off-guard, and anxious. But I also immediately felt a great connection with the two people who stood before me. They were friendly, knowledgeable, and engaged in casual conversation that made me feel like they really cared. Perfect engagement skills, by the way. After they explained the role of a socio-therapist and threw at me some hypothetical scenarios that, due to my CC training, I answered pretty well under pressure (thanks Barry and Viv!) one supervisor asked me directly, “Do you want to work in Teen Foster care? Because if so, I can show you your desk.”
Here was my thought process: 1) is this a choice? And 2) I looooove teenagers. There is something about the age group that has always drawn me in. I think that the teenage years are crucial to development (obviously) but also can be pretty tough emotionally. Add to that that most of my kids have been in foster care since they were children, and it all adds up to a pretty challenging time. This sounds weird, but when one of my supervisors asked me directly if I wanted to join their unit, something inside me clicked. I replied, “Um, yes please.”
So. The first week has been a whirlwind of learning lots of things, like what I’m actually doing, the name of the person who offers to make me coffee sometimes (love her), where my desk is because my building is kind of a maze, etc. First of all, what Teen Foster Care even is. Basically, it’s not therapeutic (an important distinction I learned on day 3 or 4 or something). It’s a specialized unit of only around 35 youth, between the ages of 13-21 most of whom have goals of APPLA. Several of them are listed as having “behavioral problems” (putting this in quotes because I don’t necessarily see them as problems, but natural reactions to some really challenging situations) and some of them have pyschological diagnoses. Basically, my job is to support all the kids who are deemed in need of or want to have a socio-therapist. I work with all 3 caseworkers directly.
To be honest, it’s been a very slow start. My lovely roommate and fellow Corps member, Masha, is also a socio-therapist at another agency, and has been running around like crazy pretty much since day 1. Every afternoon we talk about our days at work and, in comparison I feel like I’m doing very little. This makes me a little nervous because my personality is definitely hands-on, busy-running-everywhere, chugging-coffee and talking-really-fast, but I also am grateful that CAS is easing me in. I’ve only met one of my kids, but I’m eager to meet them all so I can start developing relationships with them and start supporting them directly.
In closing, everything is going really well, besides the fact that I’m super eager and don’t have much to do yet. I have to brag for one second about the fact that my office is located at 45th and Lex and that it is an easy 30 minute M train ride away from my house. No more bragging from now on, but it’s pretty nice. Secondly, I am excited because my supervisor Jill, who I work closely with, has been an amazing, supportive resource. One day we were eating lunch and I mentioned that supporting LGBTQ kids in foster care is one of my professional and personal goals and how I really care about it, and she said, “Oh my god! I’m the point person for the agency. You can come to meetings with me and help me out!” and that is the moment I knew we were destined to be working together. I am so excited to learn more about what I can do to offer support to these kids!