Friday, December 10, 2010


This morning I sat at my desk and read...
A stack of notes from one of my caseworkers,
Detailing homevisits, attempted phone calls,
conversations with service providers.
At the end of each sheet is the caseworker's signature,
and I pen my initials after it
to indicate that I have approved this account is true.

Later on in the day I have supervision with another worker...
They summarize the significant case events and issues:
A visit between parent and child -
what was worn, said, and done; a relationship in progress.
Many homevisits to foster homes -
current concerns, new accomplishments, safety assured.
Decisions that must soon be made-
so many are waiting.

I listen and ask questions while I type...
Information into our computer database,
to be printed and signed later in the month.

This afternoon I cull through a file...
I box up one child's information whose case is
being transferred to a new agency.
I flip through more than 16 years worth of papers,
an entire lifetime for this particular girl...
some of the sheets are from so long ago
that the black carbon paper is still attached.
Some of the documents have been copied so many times,

they are barely readable.

I bundle up sections of the file...
Medical - every yearly physical, each vaccination,
and requests for prescription medication.
School - copies of report cards likely never
hung on anyone's refrigerator,
just placed in a binder.
Reports - speech therapy, play therapy,
family therapy, grief therapy.
So many people involved in her life..
but only on the periphery.

I mark the passing of time...
from our current database notes,
to those printed from a regular Word document,
to those scrawled in a variety of levels of penmanship.

The sheer number of caseworkers saddens me...
No one has been with this kid for very long.
Their history together is measured in the thickness of that
particular block of handwriting.

I place a rubber band around each section...
Stack them into a box that once held
fresh white copy paper.
Paper that probably has the details of some
other child's life on it by now.
The empty binder is placed on a shelf...
It will be filled with a new case before long.

I drive the box to the office of a new agency...
I wonder what will happen in just a few short years,
when this child will be considered an adult.
She will be set out into the world on her own,
with no one to help her make sense of all the
details piled into the box in my backseat.

I wonder if anyone will even tell her
that this file exists...
that she has rights to see it,
read it,
to have her own copy.

It is her life, after all.

But we usually just see it as a tedious chore...
last on our "to do" list...
a waste of precious little time.

Its just paperwork, right?


  1. Yes, thanks for the reminder of just how important some paper can be

  2. This poem is intense. I save all the kids' papers/notes/files - not sure why, but it feels too important to just toss away when they leave. I referenced your blog in my post today about invisible illness/my migraines.

  3. Very moving and profound. Thanks for the Monday morning wake up call.


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