narrative by RR alumna, age 19yo; photo of MSW residential staff on hike with RR resident, 2018
Being an ex foster youth of seven years, let me say one thing. There are a lot of caseworkers who could do better. That said, let's not forget they are all doing their best in a very broken system, they all care. Some just don't understand that there's a lot a school cannot teach you about being a social worker.
I remember caseworkers who made the most difference in my life and treated me more than any other case.
They treated me with respect. They listened to understand instead of responding.
The case workers who made the most difference in my life validated what I felt.
The caseworkers who made the most difference in my life by being there for me when I had no one else, sometimes that meant not on a scheduled time, they made time. However, also set their boundaries.
The caseworkers who made the most difference in my life informed me and asked me what I needed and wanted.
The caseworkers who made the most difference in my life went above and beyond to show me I mattered. They showed this in ways of coming to see me in rough times because they knew I had no one else. They spent sleepless nights in the ICU. They broke rules to come see me, to bring closure, and visit when they knew I had no one else.
The caseworkers that made the most difference in my life brought some sort of normalcy to my life.
Now let's see what some of them could have done better?
Those who hindered my growth, focused on my weaknesses and issues instead of solving the core problems.
They lied to me about my mom, they didn't inform me or keep me fully involved. This hindered my growth because I was always left wondering.
They failed to do diligent family searches, interviews, and possible placement meetings.
They failed to listen to what I thought and my therapists thought I needed in my healing process. Going so far as to switch my therapist, disagreeing with her therapeutic opinion, out of nowhere. They switched up my life time and time again. With little to no forewarning.
They failed to provide me with access to communication with or expanding ties with my mother's extended families who would have supported me and made me feel less alone.
They left me feeling isolated, abandoned, and damaged by not listening to me and my personal preferences on my life and healing process.
They could have done better by listening to understand, than to respond.
They could have done better by involving me in the process.
They could've done better by looking further into my family and family history.
They could have done better about involving me in processes and informing me of my rights.
They could've done better at showing empathy.
They could've done better by showing me my options and informing me before meetings who was going to be there and what the purpose of the meeting was for.
With all that said, social workers are amazing, healing, passionate people, they save lives, and deal with negative stuff on a daily basis. We all are doing the best we can, but it's important to have the courage to grow and learn from our weaknesses so we can expand outside our current limitations. When we grow in empathy, understanding, patience, and grace. We grow in our potential to make a constructive impact in the lives of others around us.
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