How many times have you heard a foster parent complain about their children’s foster care worker? If your state’s foster care system is anything like ours, then probably too often, unfortunately. It has been our experience during 14 years of foster parenting that foster care workers do not stay at their job for very many years. Many are young, fresh out of college, without children of their own, when they start. They are full of ideas about changing the system or making a difference. They are confident in the parenting techniques they have learned at college and expect you to follow.
Then reality sets in. Within a couple of months, their caseloads are filled to an overwhelming capacity because of government cutbacks, vacancies, leaves, and transfers. There isn’t any way they can do the job by the book and only work the 40 hours a week for which they are compensated. Children are returned because of their errors, abused, and returned to care, or worse. They see parents and children who do not respond to treatment regardless of the caseworker’s best efforts. They listen to the parents’ complaints, foster parents’ complaints, and the judges’ complaints.
After a while, they put in for a transfer to another position or leave social work all together. Who can blame them? Yet, we all know who suffers. However, this past weekend I saw a something a little different. Yes, the worker did transfer out of foster care to protective service after a few years. That part wasn’t different. However, she was not fresh out of college, and she already had a teenage daughter while a foster care worker. I guess she must have really cared about what happened to the children.
She came to an open house for a high school graduation more than 11 years after she was first given the case. She was honestly thrilled to see four of the siblings, all doing well in their forever families and keeping contact with each other.
Photo Credit: 2008 Julia Fuller.