As you know by now, I am a Foster Care Social Worker. Today I was hoping to leave work around 10 minutes ago (4PM). Instead, we received a referral and now I have to play phone tag and the waiting game.
Part of my duties and responsibilities at my agency include teaching a class that prepares people to become foster and adoptive parents. During this class we discuss many things such as teamwork, attachment, discipline, loss and grief, family relationships, planning for change, and a multitude of other necessary components of foster care and adoption. When I discuss the referral process I state something like this:
The DHHR calls us with a referral. We ask many questions about the child or sibling group in order to know as much as possible about the situation before contacting our families about the referral. We ask questions regarding behaviors, education, medical needs, abuse and neglect history, placement history, and reunification plans. If the child has been in the system for a long time or if the DHHR has been involved with family in order to prevent a foster care placement, chances are that we will know a good bit about the child or sibling group. However, there are many times when we receive very limited information about the situation. Sometimes we only know the age and race of the children. So, when we call you with a referral, we will pass on whatever details we have gathered. If I state “that is all I know,” that means that I have no further information about the children.
So, today I called a family and said something like, “we have a 21 month old Caucasian boy, [name], who is developmentally delayed. I’m not sure what ‘developmentally delayed’ means in this situation because the worker didn’t know what kind of delays the child has. Also, mom is incarcerated, but the worker didn’t know what for. Dad is MIA. The boyfriend is very violent towards the mother and baby. This is all I know.” Thankfully this family has been through the process enough times to know not to ask, “what developmental delays does the child have? Does he have any behaviors we should know about? What is mom incarcerated for? Where’s the biological father?” etc.
I remember making a referral where I literally knew that there was a boy and a girl and one of them was 1 and the other 2, but I didn’t know which was which (the person who gave me the referral was not the case worker for the children). That was ALL I knew. That parent asked me a thousand questions. I just kept saying, “I don’t have any more information.”
Also, during the classes I teach I stress that we never know all of the information. We may be told that the child has been neglected, but we may not find out that the child was also sexually abused until 6 months down the road. Why? Because a child needs to be know that he/she is in a safe home before confiding such a terrible secret. We stress the importance of nurturing and loving children. We stress that positive attention is needed in these children’s lives because the majority of the children in foster care or in need of adoption have a history of abuse and/or neglect. We have one foster father who really irritates me because I always feel that he is focusing on all the “bad” the child is doing. I am sure to praise the child for small achievements like a C on a test or a day of no fighting. Children crave and need praise for the little things so that they know they can do better things. If they know that they aren’t always bad and that they can do well, then (generally) they act better.
I love the kids I work with.