When I started my job, they transferred a few "easy" cases over to me. No case is truly easy; if it were, it wouldn't be in the public child welfare system. But relatively speaking, if you have a kid who's AWOL, that's an easy case because you do almost nothing until the kid turns up. And if the kid is 16 or 17, more than likely he/she isn't going to turn up before the age of majority, at which point it isn't your problem anymore.
Well, I got two of these easy cases. One of the girls had been missing for more than a year and the other one was last seen five months before, and was about to turn 18 in six more months.
But with my luck, they both turned up. Not only that, but they had both given birth. So instead of two "babysitting" cases, I had two teen moms and two MORE cases (one for each newborn).
These two teen moms are pretty similar--I think they were even in the same gang! Numerous behavioural problems, parents who were in the system and eventually gave up on them, little to no education, substance abuse, you name it. These are the ones that people lovingly refer to as "nightmare cases".
The first one has been back since December. I didn't want to deal with it, so I wrote a masterpiece of a Court Report and got her transferred over to Probation. When I finally visited her, I was surprised to see that she had really turned it around. She's in a residential facility, but it's not locked. That was a concern at first, but she's stayed there and has gotten involved in counseling, AA, parenting, and everything else she needs to do. I'll be happy next month to recommend reunification for her.
The second one wasn't going as well. She came back at the end of February. In the first week that I knew her, she got kicked out of her group home placement. She didn't want to be there and even though her group home is known for taking anybody, she caused enough problems with the staff that they denied her. I tried to get her into another placement for teen moms but they wouldn't take her either. As a last resort, I had to put her in an emergency foster home that only takes kids for 14 days. Our Command Post handled the placement (it was at around 9 at night), and the next morning when I got to work, the foster mom was fuming. Apparently, the Command Post people didn't tell her about this girl's past. They probably do that pretty often because there's only six people working after hours throughout the entire county, and they have lots of work to do.
Anyway, we finally set up visitation between this teen mom and her infant daughter, who's in a different foster placement. Her first visit was a disaster; she couldn't handle it, so she started crying (the mom did) and got angry at her kid's foster mom for referring to herself as this kid's mom. After that visit, the foster mom's social worker called and said that the foster mom wasn't willing to be in visits with this teen mom anymore. Augh. This meant that I would have to monitor the visits in addition to transporting the teen mom to the visits at our office. The teen mom also got into it with one of our case aides who was doing me a favour by transporting her and monitoring her visit. We actually had to cancel her visit and get a Stay Away Order (like a restraining order but less strict) for the teen mom and the case aide.
Sounds like a real winner, eh? Well...to use another cliche, fast forward a month. This teen mom has stayed in her foster placement. The emergency foster caregiver developed a relationship with this kid and agreed to extend her 14-day placement for another two weeks. Her second 14 day period ends today and the foster mom said she was willing to keep the kid until we can get some other stuff done so that the girl and her daughter can be placed with a non-relative extended family member. This teen mom has gotten herself enrolled in parenting and counseling, and we're working on putting her in a charter school for kids with criminal pasts. I've also seen this teen mom smile a couple of times. It's not over yet, but it's a lot better than it was a month ago.
There's no bargaining in this job. I have to provide services whether the parents accept them or not. A lot of times, they don't feel like there's a problem, so they just ignore it at their own peril. I don't have guilt about that, but it's too bad because they're hurting themselves that way. On the other hand, as a normal human being, it's much easier to work with these people when they take advantage of the services and use them to improve themselves and their families. I have to do it either way, but one way works out much better than the other.
The odds of reunification for teen moms with significant problems are very low. But somehow it looks as if both of these moms are going to get their kids back. They'll still have a long way to go, but they're beating the odds by simply doing what they need to do. It makes me extremely proud.
I guess I still believe.