I get it. I really do. The foster care system is a mess, and case work is hard, regardless of the state you’re from. It’s hard to find a case worker who is not both grossly overworked and grossly underpaid. The turnover rate is beyond measure.
In our time as foster parents we met some fantastic case workers with energy, passion to love children, and a dream change the system. With nearly everyone like this, however, we became sad because we knew they wouldn’t last. We were certain that in a year, or less, they would move on to greener pastures, better paying jobs, and fresh opportunities, because it was too much. Or too little.
But there were also a handful of case workers who seemed disconnected and distant. They didn’t get what we were really going through as foster parents. It would have made a world of difference if they would have worked a little harder to understand what life was like on the inside.
Which begs the question, why. Why aren’t more case managers also foster parents? Why isn’t this a requirement to work in family services? Perhaps it’s not permitted in some states? We’re not sure. But one thing we are sure of- foster parenting gives you a perspective that college degrees, or professional training, can never give you.
This post is for you- case workers, if you’re not an active foster parent. This is why you should also be a foster parent. It’s not meant to point fingers, nor is it blaming you for anything. It’s a challenge, an encouragement, to join our ranks, and sign on to our team. There are a few big reasons why this is so important to helping us, and you, on this extremely difficult journey.
Reason #1- First-hand Knowledge.
As an active foster parent you have first-hand knowledge of the entire experience. There is no greater knowledge than this when you’re trying to help us. Life in the trenches gives you the ability to authentically speak into the trials, feelings of defeat, frustrations with the court system, and the uphill battle were constantly in the middle of.
Airdropping in and out for a visit every now and then, or having brief interaction before, during, or after a hearing, doesn’t give you the same perspective.
Reason #2- Personal Identification.
When we’re so mad we want to cuss, so tired we want to pass out, so frustrated we want to drink, so pushed to the limit we want to break things, or just quit in-general, you’ll identify with us. You’ll understand because, honestly, you feel the same way about your own situation at times. Taking in placements, especially those from difficult situations, allows you to personally identify with our struggles. And that, my friend, will make our job a little easier and a lot less lonely than it often is.
Reason #3- Exclusive Camaraderie.
We foster parents are an interesting bunch. By interesting I mean, exclusive. Not exclusive like a celebrity or pro-athlete; exclusive like, “We bear the same wounds, could tell the same stories, and find comfort from simply discovering we’re not alone.” There’s no longer a you and us when you sign on to do the same thing we are doing, just an us! And the us is pretty powerful. It helps you get through the darkest days when you want to quit. It stands by you when all you want to do is curl up into a ball and claim defeat.
The reason we lasted for nearly a decade and so many others spend even longer than we did in this messy and backward system, is the camaraderie. The togetherness they find when another hand is on their shoulder, and someone else’s tears drip on their behalf. Fact is, you need this kind of camaraderie and you could find it as a fellow foster parent.
Reason #4- Compassion For Children.
I’m not saying that you don’t have compassion for the children in our care. I’m just saying that you’d have more if you were also an active foster parent. Life in the trenches of foster parenting brings a deep compassion for hurting children. You need this if you’re going to be successful at your job. You’ll also feel compassion for other foster parents. And you need this when you’re dealing with our meltdowns.
Think about it this way- when you first started college, or your training to be a case worker, social worker, or case manager, you would have had a difficult time learning from a person who had not actively served, or was actively serving, in any of those areas. Heck, you might have even dropped the course or changed your career path because you would have realized pretty quickly that the person who was supposed to be teaching or instructing you really had no clue what it was like to do what you wanted to do.
The same is true with foster parenting. We need you to speak into our lives from a been-there-done-that-got-the-scars-to-prove-it perspective. That helps us more than you can imagine. But it also helps you and what you do for a living more than you can imagine. So, what are you waiting for?
Are you a case worker AND a foster parent? How has this helped you relate to your parents?