Thursday, July 15, 2010

Child Welfare Thursday

Okay, okay - I know it doesn't have the same ring to it, that is why I wanted it to be Child Welfare Wednesday! Unfortunately I apparently forgot that one of the 1st rules of working in Child Welfare (or at least in Case management) is to NEVER PLAN ANYTHING. God laughs when caseworkers (and their supervisors) try to plan things.

See, my post for yesterday's CWW was almost done and I figured I'd be able to put the finishing touches on it sometime yesterday morning or during my lunch break..... (see? I can almost hear God laughing now)... but it just didn't work out that way. So, I'll save that one for next week and elaborate on how my first week in my new position is going!

Its been going great! I am definitely psyched to be dealing with cases again - and to be in a position where I can hopefully motivate caseworkers to be more thoughtful, planful, and aware of themselves in dealing with families who are involved with the system. I've spent much of the week in meetings, mostly with my staff, learning all the details about their cases and upcoming critical issues. That may sound boring - but I could listen to case presentations all day. Knowing where a family has come from is key to making informed assessments of their current situation, as well as imperative to figuring out the best way to engage them in services or what potential barriers may be hindering their progress. Figuring out how these pieces all fit together is one of my favorite aspects in this field. It was all going rather smoothly... until yesterday!

Yesterday I was in my car, on the way to the office, when I got a phone call from my supervisor (I'll call her Kim). Kim informed me that she'd gotten a call from someone at Court, informing us that the case that we'd received just the day before was up for a hearing and that my worker needed to be there.



Time for a little Child Welfare 101 - in my state, if a worker doesn't show up to a court date, they can be given a "no show" order from the judge. If that happens, the worker is COURT ORDERED to show up at the next court date - with their supervisor - and explain why they weren't present for the last court date. At that point the judge could do anything from admonish her (on the record), to hold her in contempt of court, to find that the agency is making "no reasonable efforts" to reunify the family - which would mean BIG problems for the case and the agency.

And no, they don't care if you didn't know about the court date because you'd only received a face sheet with the family's name, birth dates, addresses, and phone numbers the day before.


So, my caseworker - who was actually en route to the foster parent's home to see the child - had to be re-routed to court. I thanked Kim for letting me know and told her I'd be at the office in 15 minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, I walked into my agency, passing Kim's office on my way to my own, and was informed that the caseworker had been called when she was pulling into the court parking garage and told that the hearing had been "continued" (court-speak for "postponed to a later date") because the worker wasn't there. The worker informed them that she was right outside the building - but the judge had already made up his mind. Luckily, he did not enter a "no show" order - but he did court order paternity testing for the child... and he ordered it to be done THAT DAY.

So, I was given a car seat and sent to pick up the child and bring them to court to be tested.

The testing facility at court closes at 1pm.

I left my agency at 11am.

I arrived at court at 12:35.

A few minutes of trying to track down somebody, ANYBODY during the middle or court recess for lunch and I had the court order in hand and was being led down to the testing facility. The entire process, (just a couple of cheek swabs) took about 5 minutes. But then the child (a tiny baby) needed to eat and I needed a break from being stressed out in my car! So, I found a place to hang out in the court building and gave the baby a bottle. I thought it was humorous that practically every person who noticed the baby had to stop and comment on her - she was tiny and adorable. I also found it humorous that they all assumed she was mine - despite obviously having a very different skin tone than my own AND the fact that we were in a courthouse that is solely used for child abuse/neglect cases. But everyone just assumed she was mine and asked me a thousand questions that I didn't know the answers to - like how she was, how much she weighed at birth, how much she weighs now, how she sleeps at night, etc. I don't know how mothers get anything accomplished if they are all getting the third degree every time they step out with the baby!

Anyways, I was back in my car shortly after she finished eating and dropped her off with her foster parent (grandmother) a little after 3:30pm. It took me a little over an hour to get back to my office because "rush hour" starts about 2 hours before 5 o'clock around here. So, I arrived at my office with just enough time to return the car seat and check to make sure I hadn't missed any important emails or voicemails while I was gone.

So, essentially, my entire day was thrown off and wiped out by the whim of one judge.

To which I just told myself,

"Welcome back to Foster Care!"


  1. I hope you get to make a difference for the kids!

  2. I learned the hard way that court hearings in which you are involved as a result of your professional role/employment at a particular agency can lead to very personal consequences if you don't show up. I once sent another worker on my behalf when I was on vacation and the judge was NOT happy. I was issued a "show cause" and had to go court to explain why I wasn't there. Lesson learned -- never made that mistake again.

  3. Hi Girlie! Sounds like a typical SW day. I so feel you. Wouldn't it be a worthy effort for our judges to spend a week shadowing us? Missed ya! Have lots of reading to catch up on!!

  4. This post makes me feel a little more empathy for our case workers! ;-p


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