“Blue” is Back

February 8, 2009

The first case I worked on when starting this job was with Blue.  She is a mom with mental health (personality disorders) issues and three kids.  I was not the social worker for the case, I just started out helping out with visits, etc.  Well, my coworker that had the case transferred and because I knew the case the best, I inherited the case.  The other worker had the oldest child move with his dad out of state and the middle child live with father in town.  So I have stepped in as we have been trying to figure out permanency for the youngest (now 18 months).

We had been trying with great effort to figure out if this little guy could live with relatives.  There were some great logistical issues we were contending with adn just when it seemed that we had figured out a plan, the father backed out and stated that he (and his family) would be unable to take him.

We (me, the CASA, my supervisor, previous workers, and the courts) do not see Blue as a viable option for this little guy, so I am now charged with finding him a home.  At the end of the week and this weekend, I have been reading home studies of families that are interested in fostering, then adopting kids.  A home study is a lengthy document written by a social worker that makes sure that a family is suitable to foster or adopt kids.  I am reading about 20 that have been sent to me in search of one that I think will be a good match.  I am currently narrowing it down and then will ask for some assistance from my coworkers to pick a family.

How crazy is that?!?  I am making huge life-changing decisions for a number of people here.  I am taking comfort in knowing that this kid will probably do well in whatever home he goes to.  But it still is a little strange and I don’t know if it will really sink in until I meet with some families or transition him to his new home.

And then, of course, is Blue.  In court on Tuesday, it will become official that we are changing the permanent plan to adoption.  And I will need to make a referral to my attorney’s office file a petition to terminate her rights (dad is willing to relinquish).  I imagine that she will be very upset and will fight the termination very hard.  I am not looking for a lengthy trial.


How to mess with a Millennial…

September 11, 2008

So a quick way to mess with a Millennial and just get them totally mixed up and off their game is to take away their internet access.  This is what has happened to me over the last 1.5 to 2 weeks and it has really thrown me off.  And now, I feel like I am just catching up and getting back on track.  Which is a bummer, because there was lots of stuff going on at work that I really wanted to talk about.  Such as:

  • My attempting to place a child in protective custody with another colleague but ended up just sitting in a car waiting for cops to show up for hours.
  • Half the day I spent thinking I was going to have to remove one of my kids from his grandma because she wasn’t providing adequate supervision.  His mother was arrested for driving without a license and without a child restraint, but it turned out that it happened before he came into grandma’s care and not during.
  • My (somewhat) successfully and coherently explaining the court and legal process of child welfare to a relative caregiver.
  • Taking a 30 lb 7 month old downtown to get her paternity testing.
  • Negotiating and tight rope walking to get to an agreed dependency on a case that was very close to going to trial.
  • Doing a slew of homevisits and noting the differences between relative caregivers and foster parents.
  • Trying to get a family basic things such as their rent and electricity bills paid.
  • Talking with the TANF and food stamps workers and trying to figure out their system so my clients can access those benefits.

And probably something that was pretty big was the father of Blue’s oldest son came to visit.  I had the lovely job of informing Blue of this (she did not get as angry as I thought she was going to) and that her visits with the kid might be altered as a result.  And then I was there when the son and father met for the first time in years (they had been speaking on the phone and writing letters recently).  Blue did decide that she wanted a paternity test during the few days that he was here.  He was not required to do so as he is the legal father (he is on the birth certificate) but agreed anyway.  Well, despite her swearing that he was not, results showed that he is and now they are looking to send that child to live with his dad.  Very interesting.

So an eventful few weeks.  But I am starting to feel more comfortable in my job and feel like I am asking fewer questions.  I am feeling more confident when speaking to clients and what to say to them.  That being said, it is becoming more clear to me that my supervisor definitely gave me “easier” – more straight-forward – cases, which is nice as it helps ease me into the job.  I wonder how long it will take for her to give me a crazier one.  And I still haven’t had to speak in court.  So I am kinda looking forward to getting that out of the way so I am not so anxious about it.  But that will happen soon.

I have also found that I much prefer to have a case from the beginning.  However, I am also finding that I am having to fill in a lot of gaps that the investigative social workers are missing.  They aren’t asking questions, they aren’t running background checks, they are missing important forms.  So I am not thrilled at that because it puts me into a position where I almost have a dual role – social worker trying to help get families services, but still having that investigative hat on where I am actively still searching for evidence to use to get dependency.  Sigh.  But the important thing is: I still like my job!

Recent Developments

July 29, 2008

So a few things have been going on to chat about:

  • I have been trying hard to figure out the policies for relative placements for kids.  They seem to be a bit of a gray area.  Specifically a relative caregiver wants to get a babysitter so she and her husband can have a date every once in awhile.  Great!  But the trouble is figuring out what the potential babysitters need to do.  Fingerprints?  Background check without fingerprints?  Nothing?  And I can’t seem to get a clear answer and nor can my supervisor.  She has been doing this for 30+ years (and is good at all of it) and she isn’t sure and people she asks aren’t sure.  Frustrating for me and probably more frustrating for the relative.  Makes me think or wonder if they should (or already have) just have somebody they trust babysit.
  • I took off a bit early today.  I had family in town and decided that I have put in some comp time and it is important for me to spend time with family.  So I left.  (I am sure many readers of this blog are probably pleased with this…)
  • And tomorrow is a big meeting with Blue.  She has had some of her visits canceled because she has had too many no shows.  So we have brought in the hired gun – our supervisor – and I think she is going to get a strong talking to.  This should be interesting because both me and the other worker have not been very confrontational with her thus far.  I am curious to see how she reacts.  I am not expecting to say anything during the meeting – just be a witness and student of the process – and I think I like it that way.

Anger at parents

July 17, 2008

I haven’t spoken about Blue in awhile.  As a recap, Blue has 3 kids – 1, 4, and 9 – and they are placed in different places, the 4 year-old with his alleged father and the other two in different foster homes.  The kids came into care for general, medical, and educational neglect and the more time we have spent with her, the more we have learned about various cons and aliases she has gathered.  She is fascinating and has some significant mental health issues (I can’t wait to read a psych eval, but I am pretty sure she has a personality disorder, most likely Borderline, among other issues).

So what has been going on lately?  We had a home visit last week and she subsequently missed a visit with the 4 year old.  So this week, she missed her visit with the 4 year old again and he was upset again.  I got an email just afterwards from Blue saying that she was confused by the time and tried calling but neither I or the other worker was in the office (she didn’t leave a message, but did speak up with the back up worker of the day).  And she asked if she could see him again this week because she missed and loved him and requested that he also be brought to the group visit with his siblings (which is at least an hour drive each way).

So the other worker did think it was important that the 4 year old go to the visit and so she drove him down yesterday.  And she DID NOT SHOW!  This is an extremely frustrating situation for a number of reasons.  One, it is really hurtful for the 4 year old.  Two, the worker’s time is extremely valuable and it was essentially wasted by this mother no showing (although the boys did get to spend time together).  Finally, it is really difficult to believe much of anything that she says when she claims to want to see them and love them and within an hour and then within 24 hours just not show up.

And being in touch with my feelings about this I realized that I am really angry at Blue for all of this.  I don’t like being lied to.  I don’t like being taken advantage of.  I don’t like to see kids hurt.  So I have to be very careful with my feelings.  Yesterday the way I handled it was not responding.  I received the email and knew that it would not be good to respond to the email.  I just forwarded it on to the other worker and waited until I could talk to her.  But it is tough – I don’t get angry very often, almost never – but I need to make sure that my feelings stay in check because I am the professional.

Academy vs. the Office

July 8, 2008

Today I went to Academy (training) for the morning, then left at lunch to go to the office and do some real work. And it really was quite the contrast. The morning was laid-back, I was very passive, mostly relaxed, and almost bored, wanting the clock to go faster. There were a couple of things that I did learn that I might use sometime, but I didn’t really feel guilty about leaving at lunch.

So I hopped in my car and drove across town to the office where I met up with a colleague and we went to Blue’s house for a homevisit. We got there on time, which was important for my colleague because Blue is rarely on time. We met the CASA there and I was glad that she came along (and is on the case). Blue and her “fiance” (looks too young to be a fiance to a 33 year old) did not answer the door at first, although we could hear them and the CASA had already said hello to them. They finally let us in, looking frantic, saying they just broke a glass and were cleaning it up.

Now, many past roommates can attest to the fact that I am not a particularly clean person. I am not disgusting, but I am nowhere close to being a neat freak and can stand a bit of dirt and disorder here and there. In other words, it takes a bit for me to say that something is dirty. And this house was dirty. It didn’t look like they had ever vacuumed (and I am someone who thinks you only have to do it every month or so), the furniture and rugs were all stained and filthy, and it was a bit in chaos. And this was a planned visit (about a week’s notice). There is no way that it was clean enough for a baby or toddler to be in.

Blue talked for the hour, throwing out story after story. A couple of them, either the CASA or the caseworker challenged her on, but not too much. I think everyone can see that this is going to trial, and really, that is the best place for everything to come out. (And when I say trial, I mean a trial to determine if the kids should become “dependents” of the state, giving the state more longer term authority. This, however, does not terminate her parental rights – that comes a bit farther down the road if deemed necessary.)

To top it all off, Blue stated that she would blow off a job interview to go to her visit with her son (which she also knew about the previous week). However, she didn’t show and her very cute 4 year old was very disappointed that he did not get to see her.

After that I got a bit slammed by work. A new referral (allegation of maltreatment) came in on one of my new kids who is living with grandparents. So I was talking with the CPS workers about it and what they saw (not much). There was also trying to track down a provider that I haven’t heard from at all and finally getting the voicemail of her supervisor. There was writing a letter to a criminal court on behalf of a client and her lawyer wanting me to put more and more in there while mine was telling me to keep it short and simple. There was trying to rearrange visits that have not been going well with a different client. And finally doing a homevisit on my own of the little girl with the new referral (which had already been planned).

And it was so different at the office than Academy. I was moving a hundred miles an hour. I was doing about 5 things at once and being pulled in lots of different directions. It is like being at a busy urban ER on a Friday night. Except, the work I don’t finish, still has to be done at some point. Unlike the ER, there is no one coming in on the next shift to make sure everything is done. It is just me, trying to get it all done. But there are aspects of that that I like – as masochistic as that is.

And I think I will leave the office politics, staff changes for another day. Sigh.

Addendum: Angering Parents

June 19, 2008

Looking back on my previous post, I realized that I excluded a big piece of that interaction.  Not only did I piss off Blue, but I predicted that most of what would happen would happen.  And that knowledge was very anxiety-provoking for me.  I am not a confrontational person (to a fault) and was raised by two of the most avoidant, passive (also to a fault) people I have ever met.  So knowing that I was going to go in there and confront this parent (who can be intimidating) and know that she was not going to take it well, definitely got my blood pressure up.

I grew up playing sports and like to approach lots of things in life like I have in sports.  One technique, which was always difficult for me to comprehend as a kid, but I think is really helpful is visualization.  So I took my time, gathered my thoughts and went through what I thought her response would be to different ways I approached the topic.  This was helpful because it helped me figure out how I could convey what I needed to within the limitations she would provide.

The other thing I did was get some ideas from my coworkers.  Dealing with angry parents is nothing new for them so they really had some great language ideas for me to use.  Ones that again conveyed the message but also did so in a way that she could grasp.  One thing that I have been really lucky with is how open the other members of my unit are.  Not only have they been welcoming to me so far, but they are also willing to explain things or offer advice, as in this one.  This is, of course, when they are around!  🙂

So the other social worker on this case and I are going to have a home visit with Blue.  One of the original concerns the state had with her was the conditions of her house (police report stated that the smell of urine was overwhelming upon entry).  I am curious if she will have it ready to put on a good show for us or if it will still be questionable.

The other thing is we are planning on confronting her on a number of levels.  One is we are have a strict list of guidelines for visits, including a late/no-show policy.  She claims that she is never late and always on time, which we have numerous documented reports, as well as personal experience that says otherwise.  Then there are her dirty UAs, the psychological evaluation she needs to do, her financial statements, and all of the other court ordered services that she needs to complete before we begin to consider to return the kids home.  Oh, and discuss with her the fact that there is the possibility that some, maybe all, of her kids will live with their fathers, who at the moment appear to be appropriate, willing resources (although, currently need to finalize their legal paternities).  What a lovely Friday morning it will be.  I just hope we are not there all day because that increases my chance of snapping.  And it is way too early in my career to be doing that!

Angering Parents

June 17, 2008

I have officially angered a parent. I have the voicemail to prove it. Blue was angry with me today because I denied her request to take her visit outside of the building. I think I had good reasons to do so:

  1. This was the first time the visitation supervisor had met the child and the mother.
  2. The child, a four year-old, is very active and prior supervisors reported that he can be a lot to handle.
  3. The intersection outside of our office is very busy.
  4. Blue has difficulty taking “no” for an answer.

So Blue actually wanted to discuss this all with me during her visit. I told her (repeatedly) that it was not appropriate to talk about it at that time (in front of her 4 year-old). She had difficulty hearing this and I left. Later, my co-worker received a voicemail, actually 2 voicemails (because one was not enough), saying that I was rude to her (which I was not), lied to her (which I did not), and ripped me for my lack of experience.

The thing that gets me is that she does not appear to think (or acknowledge) that I am in constant contact with my co-worker. She is trying to pit us against each other and, really, today, she slandered me to my coworker. I set a limit with her, or I didn’t tell her what she wanted, and she got angry.

But while I try to rationalize what her motivation is, I keep coming back to that she is displaying features of Borderline Personality Disorder. The main characteristic has been her intense swinging between idealizing social workers (she told my coworker today that she was blessed to have such a great, dedicated worker) to demonizing workers (she has essentially characterized her previous worker as the devil). Of course, borderline clients were the ones I said that I never wanted to work with. But the beauty of this job is that we don’t get to choose our clients.

So what am I currently doing about all of this?  Documenting, documenting, and more documenting.  So when I am called to testify and am getting grilled by Blue’s attorney (gulp), I can have as much documentation to back me up as possible.  I can’t say that I am looking forward to that day.