Monday, November 30, 2009

Whole New Meaning...

I always dread the first day back to work after a major holiday. I know, getting back to the daily grind is hard for everyone, but when you work with kids in foster care, the first business day after a holiday takes on a whole new meaning. Why? Because holidays are prime times for excess--people drink to excess, they relapse on drugs because those drugs are available. And then because they've done that, they make other poor choices, like driving drunk with the kids in the car or beating up their spouse. Which usually means the authorities became involved, which usually means the kids end up being placed in foster care. When it comes to teens, the holidays are always a prime time for placement into residential treatment facilities due to severe depression and/or suicide attempts.

One year, I had a sibling group come into care just after Thanksgiving. We later found out that the kids were alone on Thanksgiving--their parents had just left a few days before the holiday and hadn't come back, and hadn't left food in the house. On Monday, the older siblings packed up the younger siblings and took them to school with them because they didn't know what else to do. There wasn't a foster home available to take a group of siblings that size, so the kids were split up. A few days later, I received a fax from one of the kids' new teachers--the class had written letters to Santa, and that elementary school aged child had written that for Christmas, he wanted his parents to stop drinking so that he could see his family on Christmas.

For the most part, I handle the hard reality of my job pretty well. I read about horrific abuse and neglect every day, and of course, that is always hard. But in doing the job long enough, you have to learn how to compartmentalize so that when you come home, you can turn "off" that portion of your brain. It's hard, and sometimes people think I'm callous and jaded when I tell them that for the most part, when I get home, I don't think about cases. But the one time that I have a hard time "turning off" is always around the holidays, because working where I do puts the holidays in a whole new perspective. Sometimes, thinking about what Thanksgiving or Christmas was like for those kids just makes me so angry at the parents. Sometimes, I just want to shake them and ask "Was that hit really worth having your child placed in foster care on Christmas? Don't you realize that for them Christmas isn't magic anymore--it will always be the day they were taken away?!" I just don't understand it sometimes.

Anyway. I'm okay. I just had to ramble a little bit, so that now I CAN move on to the rest of my night. Sorry for rambling and being a Debbie Downer...but thanks for listening/reading!


  1. I have so much respect for what you do. I know that I would be a mess if I had to deal with what you deal with. I cannot imagine even a tiny bit what those children have to go through.

  2. One of the things that drew me towards Social Work was for those exact reasons, but I also think it's those reasons that would burn me out too quickly. I would never be able to leave it at work.

  3. Thinking about you and praying for you friend!

  4. I get this feeling with some of my students, the ones in similar situations. But nothing to the scale of what you experience.

    Thank you for what you do:) It is so important:)

  5. I admire you for doing what you do :)

  6. I don't understand some people. So many people out there that can't have kids then so many people who do but don't want them or abuse them...I hope you don't have too much work this year.

  7. wow... that must be quite difficult. i'm sure most of us can't really imagine the lives those children live... i'm glad there are people like you who do the job to help in the ways you can.

  8. I've been in situations where you see/hear things that break your heart, and to cope you just have to tell yourself "that's how it is," and move on. You still care, you just can't dwell on how horrible the situation is, or you'll walk around crying all day.

    I can't imagine working in a similar situtaion every day though. Poor kids.

  9. I could never do it. I just couldn't take it. I have huge respect for you though because obviously someone has to do your job and the kids are lucky that it is someone who truly cares about them..

  10. I kind of know what you mean with turning it off. I have the benefit of almost 70 years of separation between me and what I do, but it's not always the most fun thing to read about the Holocaust all the time, and I definitely do some weird compartmentalization. What's odder is that I'm so practiced at it that I don't even think about it, but I can still feel when I'm doing it. It's bizarre. I definitely try not to talk about "work" when I'm not doing it. One girl here will talk about nothing else, and I want to strangle her for it.

    Anyway, I get what you're saying, and I don't think you're callous or jaded or anything. Mi padre, a cop, is pretty much the same way. You develop a coping mechanism.

    And, you know, antidepressants. Helped me.

  11. totaly get what you are saying! i work with kids w/developmental disabilities and some of them are in foster care...or have parents who dont know if they are getting them anything for xmas. it's sad but luckily there are ppl like you that can make their lives better!

  12. Great post.

    I could never do what you do, God bless you for being able to. Anything involving children turns me into a blubbering mess!

    Prayers go out to you & the families you work with.


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