March is Social Worker Appreciation month and as a long time foster parent I wanted to weigh in on my experience with these intrepid, hardworking souls. Let’s be honest, no one becomes a Social Worker to make big bucks or to become famous. They do it because they want to make a difference in the lives of children and families. Most of the Social Workers I have worked with over the past 25 years have had 25 to 30 children on their caseloads and yet they make sure to see each child at least once a month—no matter where s/he might be. For many children, their relationship with their Social Worker is the only constant in their lives usually filled with change and loss.
Social Workers have to do the hard stuff; like removing a child from his parents for his own safety, making the tough decision to move a child into a higher level of care, having to explain to a child that her Mom failed a drug test or having to say “no” to a child when he asks for things that he’s just not ready for. A lot of times they have to be the “Bad Guy” and often they are not appreciated for what I call, “holding the high watch” for a child and family. They hold the vision of the best interest of the children and families they are assigned to even when the journey sometimes has painful twists and bumps along the way.
I have worked with many, many Social Workers over the years, and I have always appreciated the difficulty of their job. Two amazing Social Workers have made a huge difference in my life. One was from Department of Social Services and one from FCNI. Both of them worked with a child I was blessed to have in my life. These Social Workers had been in the child’s life for many years and had been by her side as she dealt with unspeakable trauma. By the time the child was placed with us, it was like she arrived with not one, but two guardian angels. I experienced so much support from these two Social Workers because they had tremendous insight into the child. Even though both of them knew more about her than I did, they always honored my input and perspective. We experienced the roller coaster of supporting a traumatized child together. We sat vigil at her hospital bed when she overdosed; we flew through hail, wind and snow to visit her in a group home; and we celebrated her success as she came back into foster care in our home and got her life together. As a team, we worked together making decisions that helped her thrive while in our care. We cheered her on (and high-fived each other) at her high school graduation and as she transitioned into independent living.
The depth of care and commitment of these two Social Workers for the child was an absolute blessing to me, to our family and, of course, to OUR girl. I know for sure that they and all their counterparts have made similar difference in the lives of other children and families just like ours. For me, and countless children and youth in care, our lives are made far better by these dedicated individuals. Thank you, Social Workers!
By Susan Jones, an FCNI Foster Parent Partner and Trainer, as well as foster parent for over 25 years