I wanted to write about how significant the relationship between a social worker and foster parent is. I started three other attempts to do so. I tried to make one light hearted and humorous in which I compared myself to a LEGO. Another draft, leaned more on drama. In that one, I actually described the relationship like, “A relationship forged in the fire of the foster care system.” Overly dramatic much? On my fourth attempt, I finally realized why I was having such a hard time describing it.
As we come to the end of September, National Recovery Month, I would like to share a few thoughts on how the Family Care Network views and approaches the Recovery process. Historically, recovery Month was associated with substance use disorder (SUD) – addiction recovery. Over time though, “Recovery” has grown to encompass a much broader arena. Recovery is synonymous with healing, well beyond addiction. Our organization works with all kinds of individuals and families in “Recovery.” Recovering from trauma, addiction, physical health issues, and broken relationships.
Ted found himself at rock bottom--again. As an unrecovered alcoholic, Ted was again living out the devastating consequences of instability and poor choices. He had lost his job, his girlfriend had moved out with their two children, and he was evicted from his apartment. The final blow came when Ted was arrested for his second DUI and ended up sentenced to six months in jail. With nowhere to go but up, Ted committed himself to his sobriety while serving his time. But when he was released, Ted realized that while sober, he had nothing to return to--no family, no home, and no purpose.
I once worked with a youth who had been in the same foster home for about two years. By the time I joined the youth’s team, he was tired of being in his foster home and wanted to be reunited with his family. For those of us who got the honor of meeting this young man, we got to experience his joy and humor--he was a very happy young person to interact with. When I met him he’d already waited a long time and had done a lot of work to reunify with his family.
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain. These past few months have been a storm, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to pass quickly. I think it’s time that we accept our circumstances, make critical life adjustments and start “dancing!”
In a phone conversation with my sister this past week, she shared a heartwarming story that I really needed to hear considering all that is going on in our world right now. My sister is the head “lunch lady” at an elementary school, and for the past week she has been handing out bagged meals to students in the parking lot of her school. She shared that several of the children who came to pick up lunch one day this past week expressed excitement that they had been provided with cantaloupe in their lunch sack.
“I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight!”
I stood there quietly, my hands covering my eyes. I was smack dab in the middle of a families’ living room, unsure of what would happen next as with this family, interactions had historically become volatile. I was counting to 30 in my head while listening intently for a sign that my intervention may be needed. I heard my 16 year old client attempting to help his adoptive mom find a hiding spot, trying unsuccessfully to whisper as he walked her through various options. Suddenly, and without warning, laughter erupted from across the room.
I get irritated when I hear the word "broken" used to describe kids and families who are struggling. Although I hear it less often than I once did--hopefully this indicates that people are becoming more informed--I still hear it used to describe individuals in our world who have behavioral challenges, difficulty coping, poor family dynamics, troubles in their relationships with others, and/or are just suffering with their overall life functions.