In the beginning there is excitement that has not been tempered by the knowledge of what is real. The excitement brings hope and joy to the table. The excitement makes you think about all of the possibilities of work that you will be doing. The excitement makes you disregard any of the red flags that you may see. It is a little like the blush of first love. You don’t have the experience to know what is real and what is not real. You have hope and wonder about your new undertaking. You are prepared for the work but you may not be prepared for the “real” work. Becoming prepared for the “real” work I had to let go of my dreams. It is sad but it was necessary. I had to create boundaries for myself not just with my clients but also with my working environment. I had to make decisions about the why I was doing what I was doing and then I had to move to the how would I accomplish my vision. What I did not know at the beginning was that I had to allow my own humanity to be seen in order for me to see the humanity of others.
I had to develop a vision, principles and passion that would guide my work. The beginnings are fun but they are just beginnings. There were things that I saw that I understood when I took my rose colored glasses off. I was surrounded by good intentions. I was also surrounded by the results of those good intentions when they created a negative impact. I saw a system that was created to save children without a “real” understanding of the impact of the laws that were created and how those laws that were designed to protect could also hurt. I saw a system that wanted one size fits all solutions in the world of complex problems. Where simple strategies were often created by a reactions rather than a measured response to a negative event. Where making fear based decisions did not allow the opportunity for growth and change.
The world of theory when applied to humans did not work. I witnessed how the new solution of adoption also created legal orphans. The adoption was the solution for those parents who were using crack. How the solution of “no services” did not take into account drug addiction because addicts did not deserve to be parents. When a person is treated as a victim it does not allow the worker to explore their strength. The sense of being a victim does not allow the individual to discover how to move past their life circumstances. Each perception becomes a box. Sometimes there is a sense of safety in the box. The victim can be comforted by the fact that they are a victim and they don’t have to do the work to move beyond the event. A box can also become a prison when the comfort that you get from being a victim keeps you from having a full life. I learned that the legal system was part of the solution but also part of the problem. Attorneys are not paid very well for their services. The CPS court does not have the status of some of the other Courts and some judges are resting on their titles. The legal system is a reactive system and precedents are set and changed by lawsuits and appeals. Filing an appeal is a time consuming process and most clients cases are not appealed. There is justice and there is law and they do not always meet.
The system of orphanages was replaced by foster care as the primary solution for children. The ultimate solution was adoption. The adoption of minority children that were drug exposed was difficult. There was not enough information on how the drugs were going to affect the children . There was a strong nature versus nurture argument that was part of the broader culture. It was also part of the CPS culture. There was hope that adoption and nurture would be able to change the lives of the children that were adopted. There was hope that this new solution would solve the problems of children languishing in foster care.
The thing that I most learned is that intentions when they are a reaction to a negative circumstance can create as much trauma and sometimes more than the original problem. I learned much at the beginning. The next phase I learned about how to survive a toxic environment.