My Unexpected Love for Caseworkers
by Jessica Stoffer
When my husband and I became foster parents, we knew we would form relationships with the children in our home. We also anticipated forming relationships with those children’s parents as they worked toward reunification. But meaningful relationships with the children’s caseworkers?? Not something that had ever crossed my mind. When two little boys were placed with us, I envisioned coming alongside their mom, encouraging and supporting her as she worked hard to get her children back. But foster care is complicated, that idealistic relationship never happened and I found myself discouraged. It was then that God started to show me what had blossomed in the absence of a relationship with the birthmom of those little boys who eventually became my sons. Their first caseworker treated each of the children on her caseload like they were her own. She cared deeply about each of their lives and went above and beyond to serve their best interests. She became a part of our family and I still consider her a friend. Her job was tough, both physically and emotionally draining, and when she gave birth to a son of her own, the toll was just too much. She became a stay at home mom and we met the boys’ new caseworker. She too loved the children on her caseload and worked tirelessly for them. She eventually took a job at another agency, but still to this day she is a trusted resource and the first person I ask when I have questions about my children’s Mexican heritage. Their third caseworker worked multiple jobs and was in school but still managed to do her job exceptionally well, loving the kids and supporting us as foster parents. We had a wonderfully sweet case aide who drove the boys’ baby sister (now our daughter) back and forth to Rockford for her weekly visits with mom. I knew when she was with this case aide she would be safe and loved, such a blessing for a foster mom who has such little control over what happens to the children in her home. I formed meaningful relationships with all of these amazing women and several other caseworkers we’ve had the privilege of working with and God used those relationships to open my eyes to a group of people in the foster care system that often go unseen and underappreciated. For this post I asked 6 caseworkers the following questions and I’d love for you to get to know them a bit here as you read some of their answers. My hope is that you too will have your eyes opened. And don’t miss an opportunity to serve these hard working ladies on July 15th! (details at the bottom of this post)
What led you to pursue a job in child welfare?
There is such a great need!
I enjoy working with children and families.
Working in child welfare allows you to have a positive influence on a
child’s entire life.
What is something people might not know about your job?
There are extremely rewarding parts of working in the child welfare field!! Most people tend to think about the awful things we see, and the trauma experienced but don’t ask about or even know the amazing parts of our day to day work, such as seeing a parent make progress no matter how small, successful return homes, seeing children progress and grow, and adoptions!
We do a lot more than drive kids around and supervise visits. There is so much more work to this job that is done behind the scenes. So much paperwork, preparing for court, playing a major role in either reunifying a family or making sure another permanent home is found, taking a parental role sometimes, school visits, attending school events and showing a child that they can trust an adult in their lives.
The heartache a worker goes through for their cases and the challenge we face to try and help kids grow from their traumas and keep them safe. We know the ins and outs, the whys and hows, what the kids go through mentally, physically and emotionally, and it’s a lot to take in, especially when we aren’t allowed to share with anyone not involved in the case.
How many hours do you spend in your car each week for your job?
Anywhere from 10 to 20 hours a week
What is the average number of children on your caseload?
As few as 15 (the ideal) or as many as 23!
What is your favorite thing about your job?
I love the kids, seeing them so often you get to bond with them a lot and learn their personalities. I enjoy hearing their silly stories and playing with them.
Having special memories with each kid on my caseload. Life can be hectic in this field and there have been a lot of good and bad days but when I look back on my career even my “toughest kids” I have good memories with. The good always outweighs the bad, no matter how bad the bad is.
I see the difference I make, even if it’s the smallest thing, like a smile from a child that hasn’t felt safe in months.
What is the biggest challenge in your job?
Seeing people love their children, but not be able to care for them because they themselves have been damaged is an all too common tragedy. The pain experienced by both the parents and children can be hard to see.
The courts are where huge decisions for my families and cases are made and it can be hard to be the middleman of a case when an effort isn’t made by the court to see the clients as human beings. Sometimes their personal connections could use some work.
My biggest challenge is the parents. Understanding what led to the cause of the case coming into the system, being sympathetic toward them as well as open minded to helping them even if it means sometimes that their kids won’t be returning home to them.
What gets you through a really tough day?
I keep letters, notes, pictures, and drawings from kids I have worked with through the years. This can brighten any day! Also, my coworkers!!
Spending time with the kids. They’re innocent in these situations they did not ask to be put in. Praying also helped me through many tough situations, trusting that God had me in the position for a reason and I had to be strong for the kids because I was their consistency.
Knowing I made an impact in someone’s life.