Pikachu’s dilemma

What do you do when there is no good option? No right answer? I’m used to being top of the class – the know it all with every answer. Nothing is black and white anymore.  Pikachu has worked so hard in treatment, and all recommendations say he is ready for a less restrictive placement, but I’m not sure. I know he isn’t going to make any more progress where he is, so we have to try, but I’m so worried about Pikachu. I want to give him a chance, but I’m afraid that if we put him in the community he may ruin his life and maybe even someone else’s. At the same time, I worry that keeping him locked up will ruin his life. I want him to do well, to make good choices, but I’m not confident that he can. Can a child be damaged beyond repair? Pikachu was hurt before he can even remember, and now his life may be ruined because of it. I pray he does well, but I lie awake at night sometimes worrying that one day I will turn on the news and see Pikachu, all grown up, going to jail for rape or kidnapping or murder.

But what if he can do well? If there is even a chance, doesn’t he deserve that after all he has been through?

Beginnings

The beginning. Beginnings are never really clear in the field of child welfare. Ostensibly, our work begins with a referral, but of course there is much more to it. By the time I get a case, the family has usually had a number of referrals and sometimes a number of cases. There has been some kind of severe problem causing a significant breakdown in family functioning and the children are determined by a court to be unsafe. That isn’t all of it either though. It is often the result of generations of abuse, neglect, poverty, addiction, criminality, and heartbreak. Sometimes there has just been a sudden breakdown due to an individual’s illness, addiction, or other problems. Very occasionally there seems to be no answer aside from outright cruelty.

We are constantly judged by those who don’t really understand what we do or why. They don’t know the things we know or see the things we see. I have wanted to work with abused children since I was approximately 7 years old, before I even really knew what it meant. All I knew was that there were children who had no one to love them or take care of them, and I wanted to love them and care for them. I didn’t understand, but I knew because there was no one to love or care for me. When I was 14, my family was finally investigated by the same agency for which I now work. My family resisted and intimidated and the worker didn’t talk to me. The way child protection investigations are done has changed a great deal since then. Less than a year after that, the agency underwent a massive overhaul. If my investigation was even a year later I would have been placed into foster care that day. I wasn’t.

I moved out when I was 18 and after spending several years learning  to take care of myself, learning social skills, and a great deal of therapy, I still wanted to work with abused kids. I completed my social work degree with a focus entirely on child welfare and the related issues of poverty and mental illness. I completed several internships and volunteer hours and children’s group homes in multiple states, and an internship in public child welfare. I’ve now been working as a foster care caseworker for a public child welfare agency for 2 years. I love my work and I hate it. I love my kids, and care deeply for the families I work with, whether biological, foster, or adoptive.

I don’t think there will ever be a time when I do not want to work with children, particularly in caring for those who have been abused, neglected, and traumatized. I’m not sure what that looks like right now. I love what I do, but it is also very stressful, with long hours and strict deadlines. I also would like to foster and/or adopt kids from foster care, but this may not be allowed if I continue to work for the agency as a caseworker. I’m exploring options for adoption while continuing in my current role, but also looking into other social work jobs as a backup. I don’t know exactly where this is leading, but this is my place to document, discuss, celebrate, rant, and learn on the journey.