Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I dunno what I believe, and does it really matter?

Work has been going. That's all I can say accurately because there's never any real progress--once you get done with one thing, another thing comes along to take its place.

During the month since my last post, I was the subject of a complaint by a parent. There wasn't an official review or anything; mostly because the complaint was baseless. I've gotten to the point where I feel that my first responsibility is to the kids. As long as I'm doing what's best for them, I can handle anything that parents or others say about me. So far, my superiors at work have backed me up on this. This parent is sneaky too. She's basically transient, meaning she has places to stay, but no permanent living arrangement. The other day I got a voicemail from her and I left her a message at the number she left. A few days later she left a voicemail saying that this was the second time she was calling and that I needed to address her question. She left a different phone number. Not my fault if you keep moving around and can't get your messages. I'm not easily angered, but this lady gets on my nerves. And it's not only the complaint letter or the insistence that I'm not doing my job; there's other stuff that I can't really get into. In the complaint letter, she demanded that they assign her case to a different worker. Be my guest. See how much other people are willing to tolerate your BS.

Teen mom has really turned things around. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily mean that she'll be getting her kid back. This is my struggle at the moment. I want her to get the kid back, and she's doing all that can be reasonably expected. Her attitude has changed a lot; even my coworkers have noticed it. She's in an anger management group and seems to be learning from it.

The thing is this: she has a history. A long, dramatic history of psychiatric hospitalizations, running away from foster placement, and defiant behavior. Can I blame her? She's been in the system since she was a baby. Nobody's consistently stood on her side or encouraged her to do better. And can I blame them? Every time a kid runs away from placement, the social worker has to fill out tons of different forms to satisfy all of the policy requirements. Group home or foster family agency staff has to write a report of the incident and inform a bunch of different parties. It's a whole lot of work above the whole lot of work we already have.

Maybe it's because I'm new, but I try my best anyway. When I think of how many times this girl has been wronged, it seems like the right thing to do. While I was looking through her file to find some past reports, I realised that I was looking through her entire life, summed up in three and a half boxes full of papers. The roller coaster of doing poorly, doing better, running away, being mistreated, doing better, running away, and so on.

Somebody needs to do right by this girl, and I guess it's going to be me. Maybe. The problem is that this is a situation where the girl's history may prove to be a significant barrier to reunifying with her child. A lot of her past indicates that she's a dangerous person and likely an unfit parent. I can see how some people have already written her off; over the past sixteen years, this girl has demonstrated a pattern of behavior that's destructive to herself and others.

But I see her now a few times every week, and really believe that she's changed. She's still lacking in social graces, and she's still kind of manipulative, but overall, I feel like I'm working with a different person from the girl all those other people wrote about. I think I would argue that this dramatic change, especially in light of what she's been through, shows that she's now capable of being a parent. I'm not ignoring all that stuff in the past, but if she can get treated for it, and has ongoing community support, shouldn't we return her kid to her? How long are we supposed to hold that stuff against her?

But what do I know, anyway? I've been at this job for just under a year. Our Department was responsible for at least ten child fatalities last year. The tides have turned, causing us to be more cautious than less, because kids' lives are in the balance.

I said earlier that my responsibility is to the kid. In this case, it's two kids. There's one who's not old enough to protect herself, and one who's trying her very best to show me that she can be protective. She's resilient and determined and strong. But does that mean she can be a parent without my help? That's what I'll have to decide by October. And I really don't want to decide.

No comments:

Post a Comment