The message came midway through a rough morning as we worked to get one of our young charges to school. “I’m parked down the block. Text me if you need me.”
And, once again, I am astonished at the level of compassion, professionalism and super human strength Outagamie County foster care social workers possess.
I have seen them calmly reason with a child who has just spit in their face, defuse an escalating situation between family members, patiently break down the resistance in a young parent who needs guidance and support, kindly counsel struggling foster parents and stand firm in their tireless efforts to help children.
They are frontline heroes and, as National Foster Care Month winds down, I want to let you know how hard they work.
We have been blessed with a particularly gifted team of social workers who rise to the remarkable and varied challenges of their job every day. So, here’s to Julie, Andrea, Theresa and Lanai. We see you driving a scared little girl all the way to the Stanley Prison to supervise a parental visit there. And bringing a bag of candied ginger, chamomile tea and ginger ale to a little boy with stomach troubles. And making yourself available after hours to help diffuse a crisis. And offering to take a little kid ice skating on a bitter cold day. And crying for two young children who hid under a blanket while police arrested their dad.
When the pandemic shut down in-person visitation, social workers responded with tireless grace and innovation. As they do in other situations, the social workers I know risked their own health and safety to make sure children stayed physically safe and emotionally secure.
In many ways, foster care social workers have a thankless job. They are the ones who have to take hard stands to protect children who just want to go home. They act as advocates, guardians, peacemakers, educators, witnesses, coaches and collaborators. They get the same 24 hours a day that the rest of us do, but within theirs they have to monitor placements, meet with school staff, write reports, supervise visits, coach parents, train foster parents, make medical decisions, handle prescriptions and attend trainings among a million other duties.
The ones we know do it with a sense of empathy and humor.
We really can’t thank them enough but I’m going to try.
Thank you for answering the phone when we call, for reading our very long emails and responding with encouragement, for problem solving with us, for being here in our home when we need you, and parking down the street just in case. Thank you for giving everything you have for children and their families and for the loving way you do a job that is infinitely more difficult than anyone could imagine.