Social workers don’t just take people’s kids away. People seem to think that my work day consists of running around the Bronx with a burlap sack, grabbing kids willy-nilly and sending them off to that big, bad, scary FOSTER CARE.
In real life? I can’t take your kids away. Even if I think you’re awful. Even if I see said kids chained to the radiator. Even if I hold them in place so they’re easier to chain. No, if I suspect abuse or neglect, I have to call in a report, just like any concerned citizen. The only difference is that I get a special, professional hotline to call.
My job is actually to keep families together. Whether they like it or not. For some reason, most of the mothers of my teenage girls desperately want their daughters put away somewhere. Foster care, with a relative, a group home, juvenile detention, an octagon cage match, they really don’t care. They just want those girls gone. As one mother recently put it, “Two grown bitches can’t live in the same house.” Someone’s been reading Dear Abby.
People come to me for counseling, often against their will. People who have been told that they’re bad parents (not always in those words, but sometimes.) People whose kids are out of control and at risk of winding up pregnant, in jail, or dead. Children who have been traumatized in one way or another, and are acting accordingly but being blamed by their parents.
What I do is called prevention–we prevent families from being separated. ACS (the Administration for Children’s Services, they’re the child protection people here in NYC) doesn’t have anywhere to send all the unwanted, neglected, or only mildly abused children. So they, and their families, come to us.
We fix them and live happily ever after. (Ironic Smiley Emoticon)