Monday, March 30, 2009

moving kids

I just got back from placing Sister in her new foster home. Late night, but I wanted to do it and I couldn't do it any earlier due to prior appointments. Sister is with a pretty good agency and they are confident this home is a good match. I hope so, but it still sucks. Sister was really happy and excited to be moving to her new home. Moving kids sucks. Sisters attitude made the car ride easier. I didn't have to try and convince her that this is a positive thing, but her response makes me worried. Does she just not get that she isn't going back to the home she has known for half her life? Is she just pretending to be happy (I don't think she is that sophisticated, but maybe its a survival technique?). Maybe some attachment issues, but I really feel she was attached to her last home. I feel like I will be waiting for the next shoe to drop. Is she going to have a big blow up? Is she going to cry tonight? I am.

Even when moving kids is the right thing (like in an "easy" removal) its still horrible. Sure its hard on me, but thats not the point. If its hard and stressful on me, can you imagine what it does to the kids? I know I'm preaching to the choir here on the trauma of moves. I don't know how many of you have done this before. Trying to stretch out what little details you have about where we are headed, and who will be caring for them to last the car ride. Trying to answer the unspoken questions of shell shocked children. Letting them know its ok to cry and be scared. Being scared yourself of what you will find when you knock on the door of an unknown foster home. What if the kid (especially a little older one) tries to run off before you get there (I had to hold down the lock button of a car once the whole way there as a child kept trying to open the door on the highway).

I've picked up methods or things I do to try and introduce the family, tour the house, go over basic rules but it doesn't really make it any easier. The look in the child's eyes as you leave... even if you are the one who took them away from their former home, even if this its a teenager with a long line of moves, their eyes plead with you to not leave them, not leave them alone with strangers. But you talk to them about how transitions and changes are hard, but this can be a good thing for them. I try and remember not to tell them to be "good" its not because they were "bad" that they were removed. Then even with their eyes on me I have to act cheerful and upbeat as I get in the car and head out.

There is a bit of a relief to be out of there, its uncomfortable and sometimes finding the placement has been so difficult, that I'm just greateful the child has a place to stay tonight. Some foster homes are good at breaking the ice, others not so good. Some try to be helpful and get me out the door so they can get on with getting the child into their family's routine. I like to stay and see the child get involved in things before I leave... somewhat settled in if posible. I don't know whats better, and schedules don't always permit that. Either way they still look at you. As I drive away I often cry. Or I have phone calls to make and let everyone know about the placement, tie up other loose ends. Take care of crisis that happened while you were trying to make the placement. Then I go back to the office and try and get things ready for the next day. Then I go home and cry.

Also I want to eat bowls full of icecream, and lots and lots of greesy food. Cheesburgers, fries, fried chicken, fried anything. Lovin from the window as I like to call it. I still want that tonight even though I'm not really hungry. hmmm and I wonder why I've gained 30 pounds since starting this job :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

breathe deeply

Last week sucked. Didn't feel much like writing about it and I was crazy busy. I got away for the weekend which was sorely needed. However, still have a lot of catching up to do.

Sister has burned her placement. She has been there for 5 years. I think this was inevitable, as the family had made it pretty clear that adoption wasn't an option. Hindsight is always 20/20 but I sure wish more had been done to find her permanancy while she was younger. Its sad, but cute younger kids are more likely to find permanent placements, so that shouldn've been taken care of as soon as the kinship options failed. Sister and Little Guy have special needs, so individualized permanency is their primary goal, but it sucks thinking of them eventually leaving care with no real family and so many special needs.

I was upset that foster mom didn't clue me in for 2-3 days on what was going on with her. I left a 4 minute long message to her consultant and then had to email her and appologize since I apparently needed to vent. Embarressed about it now. I sure wish foster mom had told me directly what was going on, but it all came down to just feeling so upset about Sister's situation.

She is really hard to place (which is to be expected), so I'm in a holding pattern with Sister at respite so she can keep attending her school, until I hear back from some agencies.

New case, lets call him Brian, gave me his word he wouldn't run again, not that I really believed him, but I was willing to give him a second chance. Foster family picked him up from detention at 7pm, and then promptly ran that night. His mom totally feeds into him and instead of calling the police, he convinced her to let him get some of his stuff and spend the night in exchange for turning himself in the next day (this was a day or two after he ran) he then ran off from her. Suprised? Well he is back in DT, and the next step is a residential placement out in the middle of no where. Just keeps making stupid choices, but perhaps he can get caught up with his education and work on some of his other issues.

Jake and Celia's mom had a dirty UA. Their placement is temporary so I'm not sure whats going to happen if the parents don't seriously get their act together. I think they will probably go to an out of state kinship placement, but don't know if the judge will go for that while we are still doing reunification services.

My team has started COW awards several weeks ago. At our weekly staffings, we each share a story from our caseload over the past week, and then vote for the case of the week. I made up a certificate with funny pictures of cows and if anyone asks its for caseworker of the week. It makes it kind of fun, and gives us much needed laughs. So many crazy things out there! I'm greatful that my cases are relatively calm right now. I'm still really upset and feel like a failure over Sister, but have to have some faith that things will work out. I continue to tell myself to breathe.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Sorry to anybody actually reading this blog. Its not very uplifting, and not very well written either. Its also become a bit of a "what I did today" blog which is going to get boring fast. I do have deep thoughts occasionally, but I tend to forget about them as soon as the next crisis appears. I know, excuses, excuses (as if I don't get enough of them at work).

Tired. Tired of people who should be helping, setting up other caseworkers for failure (this comes from another caseworker getting stuck with a really bad foster placement. They even pulled the license on this family, but then placed a difficult case with them- way to look out for each other and all that other stuff they talk about in training. The father couldn’t get over the fact that the 12 year old lied to him. Ummm even “normal” 12 year old girls lie... did he forget why this child is in foster care, cause I'm sure she hasn't.)

Tired of explaining to families what is expected, and then having them blame everybody for their short comings. Tired of kids making poor choice after poor choice. Tired of having no good answers. Tired of people ignoring suggestions that could work. Tired of the system that uses increasingly limited funds on families that aren’t willing to put forth any effort, while turning away families that are on the edge. Tired of the generational abuse that seems to say what I do doesn’t make much of a difference.

I've read on a couple of people's blogs about how the suggestion they get from their caseworker, is "have you tried a sticker chart?" I know with seriously mentally ill kids a sticker chart isn’t going to do anything, and chances are the worker knows that as well. I get how frustrating that must be for parents. The caseworker is frustrated too, and there are no easy answers. But the fact of the matter is that, token economies do tend to work for most kids. Even my kids in residential treatments respond to token economies or “sticker charts” (for the seriously mentally ill ones they have to first get stabilized, usually on meds). So with the caveat of not dealing with a serious mental illness read the following, if you still want to.

I'm tired of people saying, "I tried that, it didn't work." I strongly feel that it doesn't matter what you try, as long as you stick to whatever program it is (just ask Super Nanny :)). Charting or whatever you want to call it is important. It lets the professionals understand where we are with this kid. Sticker charts in and of themselves don't work, but giving a kid specific goals with specific outcomes does. Often the idea behind a token economy is breaking the day into minutes, sections, manageable pieces. Finding a childs’ triggers, motivation, etc is helpful. Finding places where kids can excel, and figuring out the kids' cycles is really important. Charting can help do all of this, just please don’t get stuck on the idea of a “sticker chart”. Not sure where all this came from. I just have an overwhelming feeling of Frustration right now.

Have you read "The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog" by Bruce Perry? I thought it was an interesting book. He did a presentation last year (or maybe the year before?) in our state and it was great to hear about the research they are doing, and the success they've had using his methods. He showed us that they've got a way to clearly map the missing pieces in a child's brain due to early neglect/trauma and how thier program helps fill in these gaps. But unfortunately his methods aren't available outside of their facility yet, that I've heard. This is frustrating to me.

This is one of the reasons I went into social work. I was actually drawn more to the scientific research and results in something like sociology, but came to understand that for me it isn’t enough to understand how or even why things happen, I need to do something.

Actually, I just looked up his site again, and they are offering some free courses to help people understand working with maltreated kids so there goes a useless rant. Nonetheless the feeling behind the rant still works. I’m fine with people making a buck, but if there is something that will help any of my kids, there better be a darn good reason for not making it available! (

I've had good things happen this past week, so not sure why its all negative. Guess I feel that way often on Sunday nights anticipating another fun filled Monday adventure.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

all at once

My new case.... so I got him out of detention on Wednesday to take to a foster home, Thursday he ran away. Friday he called me demanding his clothes. I told him he didn't need them right now until we knew were he was going to be. He hung up on me. He called his mom several times trying to manipulate her into getting his stuff, and just causing her a lot of stress. Saturday he got picked up and is back in detention. So now I have to decide if we are going to try this again? Or do we go straight to a place where it is more difficult to run? Guess I will see what the detention judge says tomorrow.

Celest's potential adoptive placement didn't pass licensing. I'm disapointed but after meeting with the homestudy lady, it is the right thing. The homestudy lady, who really is neutral, in just a couple of meetings was really able to point out the specific concerns. I've been focussing on giving her a chance of permanency and stopped seeing all the red flags. I still feel really bad about this. Hopefully it won't feel like a total rejection for Celest. She turns 17 this year and so will be aging out of the system. That feels like a failure, probably because it is.

Little guy is really struggling too. I'm not sure what will happen with him. Court with his parents was wierd. Dad had an outburst and was excused from the court room. Sister got upset and had to leave while dad was having his out burst. Cleared it up with her, but the judge ruled that dad shouldn't have visits with sister or little guy. In writing this I realized that I forgot to follow up on that with the visit supervisor.

Greg is making really bad choices, and I worry he will blow another home.

Had a funny experience with Suzie and supervising her visit. Her parents were really worried about her being sick, but through the whole visit she was clearly trying to "one up" the symptoms of her legitamatly ill brother. I guess thats how she got attention. They wanted to end the visit early so she could go to the doctor. As it would be 7pm before I got her back to the foster home, I knew they wouldn't be taking her tonight. The parents volunteered to take her and after talking to the foster parents we went ahead with that plan. It was pretty funny because they had her tested for all sorts of things.

Tough busy week with lots of crisis all on the same day. I don't know why they can't space themselves out better!

Monday, March 2, 2009

in like a lion

Tonight the winds are howling, and its going to be that way for the next few days according to the weather guru's. I like windy days, when I can be out in it and its not freezing cold. Not a fan of windy freezing nights though.

This morning I did some babysitting at the office. A worker from several states away was here to pick up some kids coming back into custody on an ICPC placement. The kids were placed with dad for a couple of months, but last week he was picked up by INS. The worker shook his head over having to move these kids again, but frankly I was a bit underwhelmed at the cavalier attitude of placeing kids here or there, where ever in order to close the case. Granted I don't know the whole case history, but I've never been afraid to make snap judgements (just ask my mom). I know its wrong to move kids around so much. He indicated he had been working this case for over a year and I was suprised that they would try such a risky placement, granted they didn't know that this state was really cracking down. I know things are different in every state, I feel bad for the families stuck in this situation, but the kids are the ones who suffer the most. These kids were attached to each other, which is good, but they most likely have attachment issues (worker hinted as much) due to the neglect and frequent caregiver changes. 3 and 5 years old and cute as buttons. I know that if they were staying in our state we would be able to place in an adoptive home quick as anything. Wonder if they will wait and try again if the dad makes it back to the US? Wonder if they will try another undocumented family member. Wonder how many homes the kids will go to. Wonder how much longer they will wait until the kids aren't as adoptable (hard but true the younger, cuter ones are easier to place), and have more issues. The worker that picked them up to bring to our office to await the out of state worker said they weren't upset at all at leaving their aunt's home this morning. I don't know that placeing these kids with relatives is as important as finding them permamency now.

I also feel guilty about my kids. Jake and Celia. They've been in a number of homes too. However, I know they will either end up reunifying or being adopted by grandma in a years time. I feel bad about Little Guy and Sister, they don't have permanence. They will be on DSPD when they age out but what kind of life is that for them? Maybe I'm being too discriminatory about adoptive homes. They don't get a lot of hits, but then a failed placement would be worse, right?

The licenser has concerns about Celest's posible adoptive placement. She was suprised that we would place a kid with issues there. I'm suprised too. I'm really not sure what to do about this. Not sure what to do for any of my kids, honestly. But I feel like I've got to try what my training, limited experience, and most of all inspiration/intuition/gut/whatever you call it, guides me to.

Suzie's honeymoon is over and the real fun is begining. That case is giong to be draining! I hope that I have more energy tomorrow to tackle the things I've been putting off and find joy somewhere.