We’re half way through Foster Care Awareness Month, but are we really more aware? We asked a child welfare worker to share an insider’s perspective about the pressures of social work, the daily impossible heartache, and what a simple interaction with an Office Mom did to make it feel a little more bearable.
I had a young child in my cubicle at the child welfare office. He had been brought into care earlier that day. I changed his diaper, made a bottle, and tried to cuddle his fear away. My phone rang and emails flew in all at once. I can’t remember much about that day, but I remember the feeling of a child clinging to me. His whole world had changed in an instant, and I was the only one left standing with him.
When the OMD volunteer arrived, I walked to the visit room with the child clutched to my body. He didn’t want to let me go, but I had so much to do in order to protect him and keep him safe. I sat on the couch and chatted with the Office Mom for a minute in an effort to calm the child before passing him off. As the child transitioned from my arms to the volunteer’s arms, he was crying and reaching for me. The tape played on repeat in my head: the next intake is coming, paperwork needs to be filed, interviews need to take place, meetings need to be scheduled and this child needs a foster home.
The Office Mom smiled at me and read my mind. She said, “I’ve got this, you go do what you need to do.” My heart sank as we shared a gaze, saying a million unspoken words to each other. I wanted to stay with the child and give him everything I had, but time was ticking. The paperwork and phone calls were beckoning. I walked away listening to the crying, knowing that he would calm down eventually. His needs would be met by the Office Mom, and that made my heart feel a little better. Her kind understanding kept me going that day and into the next, so I could do the impossible task of bearing broken children and broken hearts.