Dear case worker,
You’ve stepped over my threshold one million times. You’ve been brand new and eager and I’ve witnessed you worn out and oh so jaded. You’ve carried me new babies fresh from the local hospital. You’ve dropped confused big kids in my foyer at 3 am too. I’ve seen the look of desperation in your eyes from all the calls you’ve made asking for someone, ANYONE, to open up a bed and take in this troubled teen. I’ve even embraced you in tears as you allowed the weight of your nineteen-hour day to be released right there on my living room floor. You’ve juggled dirty diaper bags and trash bags filled with the only clothing you could find for this child. Do we even need to bring up your exposure to the L word? You’ve whispered stories of egregious abuse and painful pasts in the doorway of my home.
I’m familiar with the insecurities you ignore as you pull into my driveway for the first time. You don’t know me but our worlds are about to collide in the most intimate and sacred of ways. We aren’t sure if we’ll love each other or be annoyed because of all the questions and unmet expectations. We are certain to disappoint one another and do our fair share of frustrating on more than one occasion. But what stands between us, what we are both fighting for, is worth the collateral damage of the relationship we’re entering into.
I choose to believe that our hearts are headed in the same direction. We both stepped into the wreckage of child welfare because we wanted to advocate for all of the abandoned, abused and neglected innocence of our community. We both want kids safe, needs met, feeling loved.
And with my advocating of a kid comes my public proclamation of my support for you.
I bet people don’t know you stood in the Wal-Mart checkout line for twenty minutes (because they always only have ONE register open) to purchase a box of diapers for the child you’re about to place. Those things are expensive. Legit. You make barely enough to feed yourself and pay your own bills. But you do it anyway. You grabbed a Dr. Pepper and a bag of chips because dinner was four hours ago and you still haven’t eaten. You also missed your best friend’s birthday party because you were transporting a sibling group of three to a weekly visit in a another city. You’ve filled your car up twice this week and you’re almost on empty again.
You’re empty in so many spaces because you’re pouring everything into someone else. Your sacrifice is often unseen and unshared.
Looming over your head are the regulations to be followed and violations of HIPPA to dance around. You wonder if you should have said this or that to bio parents and relatives and even me. Paperwork is exhausting your every encounter. Deadlines for judicial reviews and home studies and referrals and all the other things threaten to force your hand on resigning from it all.
And then there’s the heartache of your own attachment to kids in care. Sure, you drop them off at a new mama’s house, but you come to love them and know them too. Foster parents aren’t the only ones wishing things were different. You serve as chauffeur, therapist, advocate and only friend. You hate glancing in the backseat at the timid faces on their way to visit parents who have caused nothing but chaos in their little lives. You wish you could just expedite a TPR because you know in your gut their parents can’t get their crap together.
You are drowning in the devastation and its all you never dreamed it would be. You wanted to change the world and now the world is changing you. You breathe in the bombardment of trauma and try to live life like your neighbors but you can’t unsee your everyday etchings.
Here’s the part I hate the most. When something goes horribly wrong, like death post-reunification or a child taking his own life because of the trauma you couldn’t save him from, people want to blame you. They don’t know. They’ve never seen. They can’t possibly understand how sometimes your heart’s cry to stand in the gap falls on the deaf ears of supposed justice. Your hands are tied by legislation you can’t change but must obey.
I know you’re doing the best you can. I see you stepping in and standing alone sometimes. I know people don’t get it, but don’t stop.
You have shown me how to be brave and fight hard and love big. You have been written into the lines of so many stories-including my own. You stood, tears streaming, on the day of our adoption because you were with us on the battlefield day after day. You cheered and celebrated the permanency of one more child.
So keep fielding phone calls and late night texts about placement disruptions and runaway teens. Keep stepping into the s***show of it all because we need what you’re doing. We see your sacrifice and I personally am giving you a standing ovation over here. Thanks for putting up with my knee-jerk reactions to the insanity of co-parenting. Thanks for tolerating every eye roll and deep sigh I toss your way.
Dear case worker, I’ll keep saying yes WITH you and together we will protect and press on and defend and do what’s right. And when you’re ready to walk away, remember all the good you’ve done, all the lives you’ve loved and all the places you’ve walked into that no one else was courageous enough to discover. You are doing the toughest work and for that, this foster mama is forever grateful.