Dear Child Protective Services Social Worker,
I know that recently I have voiced frustrations directed at you, at your department, at your system. I do not walk in your shoes and I do not know all that you go through on a daily basis at your job. I do not know all the demands, all the ways you are being squeezed and pulled. I do not know the heartaches you endure or what keeps you awake at night, what haunts your dreams. However, to some degree, I can start to empathize with you being a medical professional in the same county. Many of your clients are my clients too. Some of the children in your custody are there because of a mandated report I made. I know the demands of a stressful job in a poverty and drug stricken community. So to some extent, I feel your same heart pain. I feel the overwhelming pile of To Dos and not enough time or help. I can also empathize with your pain because I am a foster parent.
But foster parents and case workers have been divided for too long now. We do not work well together. At some point a subtle change occurred and lines were drawn creating a battle ground of Foster Parent vs Case Worker. And guess who is caught in the middle of the warfare: the children. The very people we are both striving to help are getting caught in the cross-hairs. The animosity of foster parents enraged at case workers is splashed across social media around the world. Do you see; this isn’t about just one department in one county in some state. This is an across-the-board issue. Its time we cross the aisle and shake hands. It is time we join arms and work together, not against each other. The longer we work against one another, the further the system slides to people feeling disenfranchised and children’s needs not being met.
I’ve been in near constant frustration and feeling like I am in a battle to the death for these kids, frequently attempting to raise a voice and shout over the other person to be heard and acknowledged. And then it occurred to me that this is not working. It is like me putting my two-year-old in the time-out chair over and over again and still he hits his sister or throws a tantrum. Then I changed my approach. I stopped and studied the reason to the meltdowns and there was an answer; he was just hungry (or should I say hangry?). Such a simple answer and yet changed everything. No more drama.
We foster parents are hungry too. We want to work with you as a TEAM. We want to be a part of your team. As it is now, we feel pushed to the side, reminded we have little to no legal rights. But this is not about legal rights, we simply want to feel validated and heard in our concerns about the children. We are living and breathing with these children daily, we learn all their soft spots and hard spots, we learn them inside and out. We cry with them and teach them to live and grow and dream big. We are with them every day and we think we have some really valid information for you, but we do not feel heard. We feel ignored and marginalized in your busy schedule. When you do not communicate important pieces of a child’s case to us and we find out last minute or second-hand, we are the ones back-pedaling, frantically trying to figure out a new plan for the child, holding the crying child with a canceled visit we were not told about. When we ask for help and it takes weeks to months to get a response this makes us feel helpless and powerless to provide the best care for the child in our home.
I have to assume you don’t want it to be this way. It is time for a change. It is time for both sides to change our thinking and start looking at each other as CO-workers, not employer vs employee. We need to see each other on the same team, going for the same goal, and not as rivals competing for the trophy. We need to sit down at the table together and treat one another with the due respect we each deserve. We need to ask each other: “How can I help you?” and “What can we do together to make a better outcome for this child?”
I get it, there is a lot of bureaucracy in government-ran foster care, but that should not be a barrier to us making this change. It starts with us foster parents changing our thinking. We need to stop viewing the case worker as the enemy and start seeing them as our ally. It starts with case workers seeing us as their counterpart. If we can make a shift to being collaborators then we will start to lessen to loads that both sides carry. And I don’t know about you, but I am getting weary from carrying this burden and I’d like to lay some of it down. I’d like to work with you and not against you. Will you?
Thank you for all your hard work and service that you do in a job that is demanding and selfless,
A Foster Parent.