‘Tis The Season…

December 17, 2008

…for kids to come into care, apparently.  My unit, which gets kids once they are removed from their parents and the courts are involved, has been flooded with cases transferring to us.  Last week, I got 4 new kids and I am a little overwhelmed with the new cases.  There is a lot to learn and get caught up on, all while trying to do everything else on my other cases.

The four kids are on two different cases – both cases came from Voluntary Services and the parents have substance abuse issues.  Cases essentially go to Voluntary Services when there are concerns about the family but there is a belief that it may be possible to avoid the court process.  Families work with Voluntary Services workers and address the concerns within a short amount of time.  If the parents are not able to make progress, then the court gets involved.  In both of my cases, the mothers agreed to engage in intensive substance abuse treatment.  And both failed to comply with the agreements they made and did not follow through with treatment.  Thus, the court was involved and they come to me.

I wonder why there has been such a spike in cases.  Is it because it is the holidays?  Is something up with the other units?  Another theory is that kids have been in school for awhile and schools start becoming concerned about kids after they have been there for awhile.  I wonder if there is data somewhere that shows when and if there are consistent trends.

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The 13 Hour Day

December 10, 2008

Today I worked for 13 hours, but the crazy thing is it doesn’t feel as exhausting as I think a 13 hour day sounds. But it was a jam-packed day, so a quick recap of my day:

  • court review hearing on an abandoned baby. Fortunately, they realize that I will be quick and put us in first and I am only there for an hour – not the usual 3 hours.
  • I had planned a home visit near the court house, but it is canceled due to a relative being gravely ill. Head back to the office.
  • Read emails and check in a co-worker who is doing homestudies on some of relative placements.
  • Call parent with phone interpreter to set up final psych eval appointment with parenting observation component. Call psychologist to confirm.
  • Get call from a TANF social worker requesting info about a mom who is applying for benefits and saying her son is with her. He is not, but taking this call reminds me…
  • …to fax substance abuse eval to TANF worker on another case that I didn’t get to yesterday.
  • Chat with unit members about a colleague leaving, a new worker in the unit, and the overall status of the unit (very important!)
  • Try calling client, but phone “temporarily out of service” which I now know means that they are out of minutes.
  • Quick lunch with a colleague. (Whole Foods has the best salad bar! So expensive, yet so yummy!)
  • Drive across town to go to a seminar about evidenced based practices for parents involved in child welfare. I try not to get offended by the obvious digs at social workers.
  • Drive to do home visit, which takes me more than an hour and a half to get there! Grrr. This is with my shaken baby and her baby brother. They look cute and are progressing, but she still has so many developmental issues. Foster parents are great, and a little chatty.
  • Drive an hour to do another home visit/meeting – stupid rush hour traffic and not transferring cases even when everyone moves out of region. This is the second referral that has come in the last 2 months on three little kids with their parents that got them back in the summer. After lots of discussions yesterday, it my opinion (and, really, decision) that we didn’t need to move the kids immediately. The parents had missed another doctor’s appointment and haven’t been taking the appointments seriously enough. However, they have been doing well in lots of other realms – drug treatment, UAs, working with in-home providers. A bunch of us are there, and I let them know that I had to convince others yesterday not to move the kids, but if they miss another appointment, we will have to. I try to be clear and straightforward, so they understand the gravity of the situation; yet, I also want to be supportive and identify strengths, because this family does have some. (Also, I have to deal with some posturing from a worker from the region that the family is in who insinuates that I am not doing my job and is frankly, a bit old-fashioned. Overall, I think I handle it well, but I wonder if he (or someone else) contacts my supervisor to check in about all of this).
  • Drive the 45 minutes home – fortunately there is no longer traffic – and arrive just after 9 pm and around 140 total miles.

Budget Cuts

December 3, 2008

So our state, like so many others is facing a huge budget crisis and we are starting to feel the effects.  Rumors have been flying around the office and today it really came to a head.  There were numerous conversations about what may or may not be happening and then in the afternoon there was a secret, impromptu supervisors meeting that really got things riled up.  Just as everyone was speculating about what the meeting was about, we got an email stating that we would no longer be able to get email on our blackberries.  This is a huge blow to how I do my work.  I (and many others) do tons of work on our blackberries.  It is the one thing that keeps me sane in court as I am wasting the time away as I am waiting for my hearing.  Being able to read and respond to emails while doing something else is something that really keeps the workload kinda manageable.  I am fearful of what is going to happen now.

The other big concern has been the loss of jobs and services.  We know that lots of our services are going to be cut, but I don’t think that until it actually happens it will sink in.  And then there are the jobs.  I *think* that I am safe because I have a permanent position, am carrying cases, my boss likes me, and there are people under me.  But, in reality, I have only been there for 7 months and we just don’t know how deep the cuts will be.  The story of 30-some temporary employees being laid off in another office was circulating and igniting some anxiety.  So being laid off is something that I have to think is a possibility, albeit a small possibility.  It sure is not fun to be hanging in the air.

This cannot be good for our morale or our work with clients.  We are all distracted and very soon our jobs are going to get harder and we are going to have less services to offer families.  It was speculated aloud today about whether we are going to start to feel pressure to place fewer kids – essentially adjusting the level at which kids are deemed “in imminent harm”.  I hope not, but I think things are going to get really interesting quickly.