Oct 12 2014

Helping a Child Heal

As a worker, you come across many stressful situations in the field. I have been threatened and cursed at many times. However, for me the most stressful situation was having to tell two siblings ages 3 and 5 that their aunt who had been their placement for the last two years was not going to adopt them therefore the goal was to find them a forever home. It was a battle between the adoption team and department for months because the Department was recommending aunt to adopt these children and the adoption team felt like the aunt had poor boundaries with the parents and would not protect the children in the future. I stressed for a long time having to tell these two young children that they were going to move. I had been involved in this case for two years so I knew how heartbreaking and confusing it was going to be to move these children. Just prior to this we had to explain to the 5 year old that their mother who failed reunification services was not going to get her and her sister back. That was hard for the 5 year old to understand therefore I knew having to remove her from aunt’s home was going to be devastating. I kept thinking how emotionally detrimental this would be and how lost she would be especially not having her family. My mind was flooded with all the questions she was going to have, “Where am I going”, “Who am I living with?”, “Does my sister get to go?”, “Do I get to see my family again?”, “Why can’t I stay with my aunt”. When the day came to explain the situation to the 5 year old she cried and cried and I hugged her tight. She did not ask any questions and still has not but her adoptive placement has been very supportive in meeting her and her sister’s needs. As time goes on she continues to heal from the trauma and I continue being as supportive as possible and I will be there when she is ready to ask questions.​

Oct 1 2014

Social Work is Difficult

Social work has got to be one of the harder jobs out there. Without much compensation, and reward for all of that hard work, sometimes it seems harder that necessary and almost pointless at times. That is why self-care becomes so important. Self-care comes in so many different forms. Sometimes we are doing it and do not even know we are doing it. There is meditation, spending time with family and loved ones, hobbies (crafts, gardening, video games, music etc.) and debriefing, etc. It seems so basic right? Then why is it that so many of us struggle with something so simple. I feel that it has a lot to do with time management. We have our careers, school, our families, our friends, not to mention shopping, cooking, cleaning, extracurricular activities and all of the other demands that fall on us. After a long day in the field, working with some horrible coworker (and some great ones), wishy washy service providers, seeing beaten and battered child and their parents, feeling there hopelessness and taking it on as your own, it become even more critical to engage in your own self-care. This is something no one else can or will do it for you. We want to teach our own children, the families we work for, and others in our life how to engage in self-care, yet we have a hard time doing it for ourselves. In the short few years that I have worked in the social work field, I have begun to realize just how important self-care is. How important it is to find time for ourselves so that we may continue to meet all of the other demands of life. In parenting classes, we talk to our parents about being on an airplane and the air masks fall down, who do you put one on first? Yourself or your child? It is amazing how many people would think your child. If you pass out from being overworked, overtired, overstressed, how are going to continue to care for yourself, let alone anyone else. I like this analogy because I feel it send a very clear message about self-care. Self-care should not be something we see as a choice or better yet, not a choice. We have to make time for ourselves. To rejuvenate. We must constantly reevaluate what works and what doesn’t. This is not necessarily an easy thing to do but it is highly important if we want to continue building our resiliencies and stay in the field. I know why I have chosen to work in this field yet no one told me how hard it would be or that I would have to continue working so hard on myself. However, it is worth every minute of it.

Aug 15 2014

Betsy Wants Your Advice!

I am working in a community mental health agency and I am on the DBT team, as well as IDDT (Integrated Dual Disorder Treatment) team. I’ve taken a LOA due to stressors at work, which include high caseload, minimal effective supervision, and feeling powerless over all aspects of my job. I am working on my own recovery, as I’m currently meeting with a therapist to treat PTSD. She initially treated me for vicarious or secondary re-traumatization, and I’ve been addressing my own past traumas. I’m uncertain of the best approach to take when I return, which will be in the next several weeks, as I’m aware I will not be able to return to the same situation. Any suggestions would be most helpful to me.

Thank you. Betsy LMSW

Aug 7 2013

Detaining Is Never Fun

One situation in particular that stands out in my mind is a case with a family that was in Family Maintenance for one year. The mother had been to an inpatient drug rehabilitation center and two sober living environments that the county funded. During her time with Children’s Services, she relapsed twice with methamphetamine, however safety plans were created and her children were able to stay in her care. She reported one more relapse and expressed being overwhelmed with her two young children in her care. After staffing the situation with a few different supervisors, my AFI and I decided that the children were not safe in the care of their mother and that a protective custody warrant needed to be ordered. My AFI told the mother that the warrant was filed and once it was returned, if approved, she and I would detain her children. After receiving the approved warrant, my AFI and I went to her house to detain her children. We watched as she said goodbye to her children and packed their belongings into the car. It was one of the saddest things that I have ever seen and experienced. It was such a strange feeling driving away with someone else’s children in the car, being responsible for their safety, and not knowing if they would see their mother again. It was difficult for me because I wanted to be able to offer support to the mother, especially due to her brain being in “relapse mode,” however our priority was the children. In addition, I wanted to aid the mother through some of her feelings, but do not feel that I have the clinical skills to offer. I believe the lack of clinical skills within child welfare speaks volumes. It motivates me to obtain the skills so in the future I can better serve the children and families that we work with. Being an intern at a public child welfare agency has proven to be rewarding, bus have many challenges. There are many situations in which I find myself saying out loud, “this is such an interesting career choice.” Most average humans do not have to discuss different ways to approach confronting a client about a relapse, or even something more serious, such as staffing a detention. I feel honored and privileged to have the opportunity to support the children and families that we work with on a daily basis.

Heather K.

Mar 15 2013

He Verbally Assaulted Me

I received my first case as a child protective services intern in the Family Reunification unit. I needed to call a father to arrange for supervised visits between he and his child. The father had been recently released from jail. I had to explain to him the reason visits had to be supervised: no visits were currently happening, he did not have stable housing, and most importantly, he was refusing to drug test. As I explained what had been arranged and why, he began to escalate. He yelled profanities, threatened, and demanded, demonstrating his capacity for rage. To sit, listen, and actively empathize required tremendous effort on my part. What I believe was most unnerving was the understanding that I needed to find a way to engage and build trust with this father who was verbally assaulting me. I thought about what it might feel like for the mother of his child to be on the receiving end of a verbal lashing from him. I also thought about what it might be like for his young child to witness this kind of display. Nevertheless, I had to remain very thoughtful, deliberate, and empathetic. I wondered if I could really handle my role. I was emotionally exhausted following this encounter. I had been able to de-escalate his anger and guide him in the direction of acceptance, but the cost to my emotional energies felt entirely too big. I continued to work with this man however, by understanding his need for control through the cycle of violence. I viewed him through the lens of his experience and history with CPS. I learned that his family of origin first came to the attention of CPS when he was only 5 years old. He spent most of his life in foster care or group homes. It is little wonder that he drops to a place of powerlessness when he feels threatened.

Jennifer S.