Parenting Children as a Child Welfare Caseworker

Tonight I sat down and wrote a blog post on self care as I have prepared to do all week. I had several ideas on what to share and completed my blog. But it was not right for today. I had other things on my mind, so this is what I will share. This may be easy and may be hard to read, but it is the life we face in today’s society.

I am a mom. The majority of my colleagues are parents. We have biological children, foster children, nieces and nephews, and even kinship children in our homes. At some point we are all caring for children, young and old, and share our stories of what happens in our lives with these babies.

As we speak, I have close friends/colleagues who are doing things with their children. One has taken off a few days to spend time with their nephew, one has recently driven to another state to move their college child home for the summer. One has adopted a teenager, learned she is going to adopt a baby, working on placement of a teen and now is looking at placement of more. Several have been or are getting ready for prom and graduation fearing empty nest syndrome and beaming about the success of their child who is moving into adulthood.

This sounds beautiful, exciting, scary and amazing. As child welfare workers, we often think we have a “leg up” on society. At least, just speaking for myself, I always thought this was true. I have fears and hopes that my knowledge and experience of the “bad” in this world gives me an edge on raising my child in a safer home and world. And while it does to an extent, I realize, as many of us do now, that we are no different than others raising children in our world. Other “non-caseworkers” to be exact.

Every day I put my child on the bus and pray he is safe and happy. I have received scary calls that he fell asleep on the bus and forgot to get off at the bus stop. I am a full time working mother and no, I am not there when he gets off the bus. But his sitter who is a family member, is there daily. I have received the “all calls” from the school that there was a “threat” at one of the schools, resulting in a call to the police, but was handled. Today I received an all call, that one of the busses was stopped and police were called for the threat of a weapon. It was handled, and the weapon was a cap gun. But wow was I scared. I didn’t know what bus it was or if my child experienced that. It scared me. My child has talked about other kids on the bus bullying, saying horrible words, and even threatening other students. I try daily to remind myself that this is the world and I focus hard on open conversation with my child to talk through this. This is really all I can do. I can’t be there every day with him, to protect him and watch over him. I entrust him to other adults in our community to do this for me.

I try to pay attention to who lives in my neighborhood, know who my child plays with, learn his teachers, classmates and those he spends time with. But at times it is hard to hear him talk about certain students he encounters, who at some point I may have been involved with on my case load. This happens to all of us parents as caseworkers. It’s hard. It’s confusing. I often wish that I was naive to society and things that occur in my community but I am not. All of us in my line of work, we are not naive. And that makes me more scared.

Our children along with ourselves are not immune to the fears, dangers, and crazy things that happen in our communities. Drugs, alcohol, guns, school shootings, crime. It happens everywhere. But we are still moms and dads, grandparents, and caregivers who worry about our child’s safety. We walk a delicate line between parents and caseworkers. Finding balance is a struggle. Our children have been or could be exposed to the horrors of abuse from strangers, relatives, community members, etc. We entrust our children with others daily. Just because we are caseworkers does not mean we are immune to scary things that happen to our children.

I struggle to admit this, realize this and accept this. But it is the truth. It’s reality. It’s hard. It’s scary.

So tonight I sit and share these thoughts and fears, in raw vulnerability, and hope that someone reading this says “wow, I feel the same way too”. Because truly, it’s ok to feel this way. We believe as parents it’s natural to protect our young, so this is what we do. Caseworkers not only protect their young, but are trained to protect the others who aren’t being protected. Because not all parents are able to do this, so we are in this field to help them protect or do it for them if necessary. Double duty per se. But I will go to sleep tonight and pray for all the children in my community and everywhere else around the world. That they may have that one person who helps them, protects them or keeps them safe. Mom, dad, brother, sister, relative, caseworker, police officer, teacher, etc.

Our children, as I always say, are our future. Let’s continue to work together to keep them safe, and raise them to be the best they can be. And finally, keep in mind that the caseworkers out in our community, are parents too. We have just as many hopes dreams and fears as anyone else.

~Social Work Superhero

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