March is Social Worker Appreciation Month – a month that we at Office Moms & Dads take seriously. We believe that social work is essential and often overlooked or even villainized, so this month we will be highlighting just a few of our social workers’ stories. These individuals are everyday heroes that show up for kids and families even when they are tired, dragging from the day before, and carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. The pandemic has affected social workers much more than we realize, and although this may be an unpopular topic to some, I’m willing to go there.
“Sometimes it feels like we are on a different team than foster parents, but we’re not. We play different roles in the same game of child welfare. Sometimes it looks like a social worker made a decision, when we are just upholding the decision of a judge,” said one Agency worker. “We are harassed, yelled at, intimidated, called terrible names, and threatened with lawsuits on the daily. We work with people that the police know well, interview clients in jail, are on crime scenes protecting vulnerable children before they go into foster homes. We testify in courtrooms, are cross-examined by attorneys and questioned by the Honors of the courts. Clients even show up on our doorstep sometimes.”
My heart aches when I see a post on Instagram from a Caregiver crying out in hurt and rage against the System. As a former foster parent, I vividly remember the struggle. We open our homes to children that aren’t ours, deal with bio parents that may or may not appreciate how we are caring for their children. We endure a revolving door of social workers, doctor/dentist/mental health and early intervention appointments for each child in our care. We schlep our kids all over town for court-ordered parent and sibling visits, foregoing our own self-care, putting our personal lives on the line to manage a System that is broken, only to have a judge tell us he’s going to give bio-mom 6 more months to get it together. Sure, we’ll wait.
The System is losing foster parents at a rate of 30-50% each year, and social workers are walking away at a similar rate (roughly 40%), according to the CDC. Let that sink in. Social workers aren’t allowed to put their rage and hurt on social media. They suffer in silence. They absorb trauma into their bodies and minds on a daily basis, foregoing their own self-care, putting their personal lives on the line, while representing a System that is broken, delivering news that the judge is going to give bio-mom 6 more months to get it together. Ever the bearer of hard news.
“We are playing on the same team, suffering from the same secondary trauma and we show up for the kids that need us, while we still can show up,” says one social worker. She goes on to describe the toll her work takes: “Then the burden becomes too great and you’re forced to stop so you can find the way back to yourself, to pick up the tiny, broken pieces of your heart and glue them back together again.”
We are on the same side. We are for healthy children and whole families – whatever that looks like. Office Moms & Dads aims to be an agent of peace and healing. Everything we do is meant to support caregivers in their role, and social workers in theirs. At the end of the day, we hope to have lessened the trauma for a child caught so helplessly in the middle of a broken System. This is not easy work for anyone involved, but this month especially, we honor those essential workers who are unseen and often unheard.
“There will always be broken pieces of me from this job, but damn, it’s worth it,” she says.