Welcome to the (Foster)hood

1 03 2013

One of the toughest things about working in the child welfare system is dealing with all of the petty, bullshit, infighting. (You thought I was going to say it was the sadness of children, didn’t you? Fools, social workers thrive on kiddie tears, they’re like Gatorade!)

ACS, the government agency, runs things. They hand out contracts to places like Anonymous Agency to do the preventive and foster care work that they don’t do themselves. Because ACS has the money, and they’re the government, they have the power. Sometimes it seems like we work for them, instead of the way it’s supposed to be–we work with them, for a common goal. In response, we might get a bit persnickety. “Oh, I have to be at that meeting? Well this isn’t enough notice, I don’t know if I can.” “I referred the family to a different type of parenting class than the one you insisted on, because it was more appropriate according to my professional assessment.” Persnickitiness begets persnickitiness, and it becomes a cycle.

Why am I getting into this? Because all of that infighting, and those power struggles, affect people’s lives. Most tragically, it affects children.

My friend Rebecca, rock star Brooklynite of the Fosterhood blog was set to adopt a child born on February 24th. She’s a foster parent in great standing, and is currently fostering an infant. The mother of the little girl born on the 24th has older children in foster care, and knew she wouldn’t be able to keep this baby. The foster agency facilitated some meetings, and mom chose Rebecca. Rebecca got a crib, researched the special hell that is double strollers, and got the call the day the baby was born to come meet her daughter. She named the child Clementine, which is on her birth certificate, along with Rebecca’s last name.

It’s not clear quite what happened next. Miscommunication? Stepped on toes? Incompetence? Crankiness? Whatever the case, the agencies were not in agreement and there was a lot of talk about “how things are done.” Clementine was sent to a strange foster home, and her mother wasn’t aware of this until Rebecca let her know. Two mothers are devastated, and a child is in unnecessary limbo.

I’m not asking for people to block the steps of City Hall wearing “Free Clementine” shirts. (Passerby would just think you were giving out citrus fruits, and it wouldn’t help.) But perhaps you could send Rebecca a little support?

Or maybe just read her story, Clementine’s story, and remember what can happen when we forget our priorities. We’re all working towards the same goal, the safety and well-being of the children entrusted to us, and permanence for them. Anything else is unacceptable.

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6 responses

1 03 2013
rebecca

thanks for all the kind words. i’d like a poster that says “Persnickitiness begets persnickitiness”. best line ever.

1 03 2013
anna

i’ve been a long time reader of fosterhood and when her story took this turn, well… there are just no words. i can’t stop thinking about the how and why of this, and of course, most importantly the WHEN. When will baby Clementime be where both bio and adoptive mom know she should be?

2 03 2013
Magali

How about “Free Baby Clementine”? 😉

2 03 2013
btrflygl

I have such a respect for those of you who can work within this system. Having to provide services to children and their families is one hardship……but when you have to deal with all of the nonsense that goes on behind and beyond the scenes with agencies………I have no words. None that would be helpful or appropriate anyway. Best of luck to everyone involved in Rebecca’s case.

2 03 2013
sarah

perhaps what’s craziest about all this is that rebecca’s blog has inspired tons of people to become foster parents, which ACS definitely needs. something like this is going to DISCOURAGE people from fostering.

4 03 2013
carolynsocialworker

And then there is the new foster mother who is rapidly falling in love (probably at first look) with this perfect newborn. Somewhere there is a Golum type person muttering gleefully about efficiencies when (s)he realizes they have broken three hearts in one blow.

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