I’m Ms. Brightside

19 01 2012

Yesterday was a rough day. Like, the kind your mom warned you about. Or maybe she didn’t. But still, they happen. I had to listen to an awesome twelve year old girl cry about how she wants to go live with her dad, because her mom blames everything on this kid and just can’t be nice. Mom doesn’t beat this child. Her physical needs are taken care of. The mom just has a unique ability to make this kid feel like crap. Dad probably can’t take her, and mom would never allow it anyway, but it was all she could think of.

I am trying to help this kid. Really, really trying. But with a parent who isn’t willing to even think about change, and a situation that doesn’t warrant removal (and really, would removal solve this? Would this child suddenly be in the warm, loving environment she deserves? Maybe. Probably not.) I’m limited in what I can do. A mentor and an afterschool program to get her out of the house, counseling at school, and support from me are kind of all I can do. It happens. There are situations you can’t fix, because the people in charge of them don’t want you to help.

Let’s focus on the good. For a moment

1.) I have been working with a mother and her thirteen year old daughter for close to a year now. They were barely speaking when they started coming in, and it is ridiculously heartwarming to see how much they’ve grown. They do things together and talk to each other. Soon, their case will be closed, which is depressing and thrilling all at the same time.

Anyway, this girl is super smart, and loves school. She just got accepted to the Catholic school of her choice, the one she’s been dreaming of, complete with a full scholarship. As if that weren’t enough (it totally was) she ran to the office to tell me. (After crying with her mom over it.)

2.) The other morning, there was a parenting group meeting at the office for the first time. They assured the clients that child care would be provided, but neglected to tell the workers who provide the child care. As a result, there was a lot of, “Well, I have other work to do. They didn’t tell me. I can’t watch these kids rabble rabble rabble.”

One of the kids in question was from one of my families, so I told the parents to leave their kids with me and go ahead to group. I don’t know how many of you have had the surprise experience of reading “The Cat in the Hat” to a group of toddlers who are extremely rarely read to, but it’s a delight. Trust me.

3.) Recently, we had a holiday celebration for participants that didn’t go exactly as planned. Supervision was lacking, there was a lot of petty infighting, we didn’t have time or money…the usual. But my homemade mancala boards? Were a HUGE hit. Families asked to take them home, so they could play together. Video game addict kids wanted to teach their friends to play. Victory!

Egg carton + beads = no money fun!

4.) In social work, a case being ready to close (not closing because time is up, or because they’re moving on to other services, or the kids are being removed) is a great success. I’ve got a family with an eight year old who is in just that position. They’re doing well. The mother just told me, “Things are still stressful, but I have ways to manage it now.” Yeah. That’s pretty much it.

But that’s not the best part. Here is a pic of me and her eight year old daughter.

See how we get our hair done at the same place?

5.) Another mother just told me that her son had been acting up lately, so she made an appointment with his psychiatrist to see if his ADHD meds needed to be adjusted. This was a woman who remembered to give this child his meds only about half the time last year. As a result, this was a child who spent half the time last year throwing chairs.

6.) My girls’ group ended this week. (Speaking of crying. Oh, we weren’t? I was.) One of our traditions is to have all of the girls write a card to each girl in the group, saying something positive about their participation. Two of the girls decided to write notes to me, and insisted, under pain of death, that I display them in my cubicle.

Yeah. You don't get that often.

We can’t help everyone. There are situations that we work our best on, and then have to admit that there’s nothing else we can do. It’s just reality. The reminders, especially visual reminders, that there are, in fact, people we help, and changes we help bring about, can make quite the difference.



5 responses

19 01 2012

Absolutely fabulous. After most of a insane week both indoors (you want a parking pass so you don’t have to walk half a block?) and outdoors (-40 which doesn’t matter if it’s c or f) to read your post was truly uplifting. I’m off to cuddle some babies (well, I get to at lunch if no where else)

19 01 2012

Thank you so much! I’m glad I could help in any way. 40 below sounds miserable, I’ve never experienced that. I don’t think I would hold up well.

Have fun with the babies!

19 01 2012

I discovered your blog two nights ago and have read every entry. I am delighted by your snarky wit and candor!. This type of “gallows” humor is an effective way to “survive” our jobs…I know some cringe worthy molester jokes that I know to only share with (non-crazy)social workers back in the office!

I am a child abuse investigator with DCFS in Los Angeles, and have searched high and low for a good social worker blog, I know that in finding your’s, I have found a great one! Bravo!

ACS seems to be vastly different that DCFS, in that it sounds as though you have to obtain warrants in order to detain. We utilize prima facie, which, in the wrong hands ( i.e., horrible, crazy, “power mad” workers) can be a nightmare. I am “fortunate” in that I work in a specialized unit that works with law enforcement, probation and the Feds when they execute search warrants, so the probability of exigency is high. Still, there is nothing like accompanying a child to a SCAN exam, or having to view child pornography in order to ID a child that can be a bit of a buzz kill to one’s day!
Take care of yourself, happy belated birthday ( I celebrated last week myself and took 2 weeks off…..hoooyah!) and I appreciate another fellow social worker who is GOOD to the children and families.
Have a good one.
Michele Loya Chhabra

19 01 2012

Thank you so much for spending all that time reading! I’m impressed. You seem to be holding up all right, in terms of sanity, so I’m even more impressed!

And thank you so much for sharing about your work. It’s very interesting to hear how child protection works in different jurisdictions. Also to encounter someone else who is really in it for the kids and families.

Happy belated birthday to you as well! Good for you with two weeks off. I hope you were able to spend most of that time not thinking about work 🙂

20 01 2012
Vetnita in MN

I just had the unhappy experience of talking a neighbor through calling child protection here in MN for a friend who probably is doing meth again and neglecting her two innocent kids. She stated that she saw no food in the house, multiple strange men sleeping in the little kids rooms, and the absolutely filthy kids told her they are scared of their mom, and their home, and just want to stay with my neighbor.

Child protection stated that since she didn’t see any actual abuse or neglect with her own eyes, they wouldn’t even take the mother’s information down. Finally after the fourth phone transfer, the social worker on call stated that the only way they would respond to that level of threat would be if it came from the school social worker; Hint, Hint.

Why can’t every child get a safe home and a loving hug? excuse me I am going to watch Phineas and Ferb with my spoiled rotten kids and try not to cry.

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