This is something that I am going to have to grapple with constantly with this job, yet it was part of the reason I took it. Power. The lack of it really bothered me in my last job. I felt that I was in a very good position to make decisions, but the most that I could do was make recommendations. And those, well, were mostly ignored. But in this job, I am smack dab in the middle of the decision-making and power.
Example: Today a baby came into our CPS (child protection services) unit*** after the mother abandoned it at the hospital through the Safe Haven law. Many states have a similar law – in essence, a parent can leave a baby at a designated location (hospital, police station) which is meant to prevent a baby from being left in a dumpster. The caveat in Washington is that the law only protects the parent from prosecution, so we will be interviewing the mother tomorrow to gather more information (and check on the welfare of her other child). So we need to place this child and we have the opportunity to look at families that are possible pre-adoptive homes. Therefore, a group of 5 of us looked at 5 adoption/foster family home studies and picked a first choice and a second choice homes for this baby. And just so we are clear, the 5 of us in a room, potentially decided who this baby’s lifelong family will be and which of these families that have been waiting a long time for a child, will finally get one (and a healthy newborn at that!) Fortunately, I feel like I am up to the responsibility of this kind of power.
I also experienced a little bit of the downside of having said power – not everyone is thrilled at those that have it. In the afternoon, I supervised a visit with a mother who has a extensive drug addiction problem with her two children, aged 5 and 14 months. Understandably, the mother was not thrilled at having me hang around for 2 hours and it was interesting to sit with that animosity.
Again, I am sure I get to deal with all of this much more in the future!
*** We have different kinds of units. CPS (child protective services) do the short-term, investigative work. CWS (Child welfare services), which I am a part of, does more of the ongoing work with children who are taken into state custody. Voluntary services work with parents on a voluntary basis, as the name implies. And there are other, more specialized units that I will learn more about later….