Opinions voiced here are not necessarily those of my employer...although they should be!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Analogy part 2

Guess what?

It was a gas leak.

Everything exploded.

All I can hope is that the children can stay in this placement. Another move will really hurt them.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An Analogy, or maybe I should call it a parable...

Matchphoto © 2010 Samuel M. Livingston | more info (via: Wylio)

An analogy of my day:
Me: There was a gas leak. We turned off the gas and opened the windows. It seems to have dissipated, but the leak hasn't been fixed.
Them: Are you sure it was a gas leak? It could have been a rotten egg. Many times that smell is only a rotten egg. How do you know it was a gas leak?
Me: Because when we turned the gas off, the odor dissipated.
Them: We think it was a rotten egg. Maybe we should call an expert.
Expert testifies. No eggs found.
Them: Well we want you to try this. Turn on the gas again, but only half way and then light a match. then we will know if it was a gas leak.

Me: (googling jobs with less stress, like air traffic controller)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Road trip....

Did the Tour of Travis County today. Fun to visit with foster families who are "doing it right." Kids are happy and safe. Foster families who care about the kids, helping some to get to college and helping others learn to manage hard feelings.

I could never do what they do. Not nearly as well.

Monday, June 27, 2011

So today...

Today, I had to tell a mother that I was cutting back her visits. She has some very real substance abuse issues and cannot possible get her children back in her home unless she gets clean and sober, and fast.

Her adult daughter came to me and though she said she wasn't begging for me to keep her mother's weekly visits, she was begging for me to keep her mother's weekly visits. She said that she was afraid her mother would "disappear" for five days again, which really means, go get high or drunk or some combination of both. She was fearful for her mother's life. She said that the visits made her mother happy and she didn't want that to stop. She said that if we took the visits away, her mother would stop trying. 

I tried to explain that we really couldn't do anything with mom until she got sober, but it wasn't sinking in. And just the sight of this daughter, as injured and hurt as she was from her mother's past, and how she herself was injured by her mother's lack of sobriety, and yet fighting for her mother, broke my heart. No matter what our parents do to us or not do for us, we are loyal to what we think they are capable of.  This young woman loved her mother. She may have loved her two year old half sister as well, but not enough to put her needs ahead of her mother's. 

And no matter how much I try to explain that I have to keep the 2 year old safe because she cannot protect herself, the older daughter didn't get it. And if I put myself in her shoes, I see her point. Because we all want our parents to be what we need, even if they are not even in the neighborhood.

So behind...

DSC_3768photo © 2010 Alexandra Richmond | more info (via: Wylio)

I am so behind on paperwork that I will be two months instead of one. I had a little time this weekend, but could not get my butt in the chair. But this morning I figured it out. I had "staffed" (that's the fancy department word for had a little meeting or chat about) these things so much that I don't really feel the need to write it all down.

But as if it's not documented, it didn't happen, sometime this week, I will need to prove the existence of both May and June.

Good times.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I just don't get it sometimes....

Today, I just don't understand.

We have a father with drug history and a history of letting others injure children in his care while he is present.

Living with someone who has a history of letting others injure children in her care, while she is present

AND someone who has been convicted of seriously injuring a child.

So yes, let's give them all unsupervised time with a developmentally disabled two year old.

I just don't get it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Another one bites the dust....

So today, another of my coworkers announced she found new employment and would be gone in two weeks. And I'm glad for her. She has a great opportunity, and a new baby. While we joke around that we are "Neglecting our families, protecting yours," the sad fact is that we aren't really joking. The work of helping families is set up by our court system and by our State Legislature to in fact hurt the families of the helpers. Many of my coworkers are divorced or heading that way.

For now, it means that my case load goes from 2 times optimal to almost 3 times optimal. And that isn't good. We go into Firefighter mode. We put out fires. We try to keep current with standards. Bur really, we cannot be proactive, we cannot be available to people like we should, and we really can't do the job. My voice mail is filled by noon most days, and I cannot return most of the calls in a timely manner. I cannot mentally process all the email requests. And then there are "minimum standards" that I am supposed to be keeping up with. Can you say bare minimums?

All I can hope is that no one dies this month.

And since no one wants a job that sets one up to be incompetent, the exodus begins....

the question is, who is next?
(why yes, my resume is "out there.")

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Can't make this stuff up...

Actually quotes....

Q So anyone with a CPS call on them can never be a foster parent?

A. No one with history. Believe it or not, there are tons of families without CPS history. It's NOT a right of passage.

Q Just because CPS has removed my children multiple times, it doesn't mean I'm a bad mom.

A. Actually, it does.

Wish I could have been the one to say it out loud.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

And then you stitch them together...

High drama today....

Drunk mama fighting with drunk gramma at court.

A baby is born, and mamma has to decide whether to do a private adoption or the state will take custody.

And a teenager is thrilled to move back to her home town, for tonight anyway.

But I didn't quit today.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Things fall apart...

There are days (weeks, months, seasons) that are so tightly scheduled and so dependent on many people sticking to the plan that all it takes is one person calling in sick or one emergency to affect thing into next month. The Butterfly Effect of social services. One state senator sneezes and two hundred positions are lost. Etc.

I am posting from my personal phone out of utter frustration. I am supposed to be a "mobile" caseworker which means the expectation is that I am working in the field most of the time. And I have equipment that is designed to allow that.


I think no one else got the memo. People expect me to be in the office at their convenience, answer phones and emails immediately, and meet all deadlines. Which is easy to do....from the office. Not so much from the drivers seat of a camry.

I may start a pool...pick the day I give my two weeks notice...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's not my fault...

If law enforcement has to be called because of your actions, it is so not my fault if the children are traumatized, it is YOUR fault. Next time listen to what the judge says, it may not be what you want, but know what? Since you can't put me in jail and he can, he is the one I'm listening to....

Friday, May 20, 2011

I'm from the State, I'm here to help

Just a thought, but if a college graduate and professional bureaucrat cannot get a driver's license or State issued ID in less than three trips and five hours, how are our clients, especially those employed in jobs with no paid leave, supposed to do it?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Summer of Hell , part 1

Three years ago.

We called it the Summer of Hell. Our staff of six was suddenly a staff of 2. My caseload went from a capped caseload of about 19 to 39 in about three weeks. Did I mention that the "optimum" caseload is about 16?

Adding to my misery was the fact that about five of the cases involved children in Emergency Shelters. Emergency Shelters are placements that care for children that we can't find foster homes for. The may have some kind of behavioral issue, or they are a certain age or gender that is hard to place. Emergency Shelters do a job that is difficult at best and impossible most of the time. And they charge the State a whole lot more. But, while our children are in Emergency Shelters, we caseworkers are required to put our eyeballs on the child weekly. Which isn't a problem when they are in town, but most Emergency Shelters are at least two hours from our town. Summer of Hell. I have to rent a car whenever I have to drive over 150 miles. There were 11 rental cars a month that Summer of Hell.

The weekly visits were not convenient. But I talked to someone who had been a fos ter child. She said that she was left in an Emergency Shelter and no caseworker came by to see her for three months.  She was left in the shelter for three months with no one to tell her the plan for her life, what was happening with her parents or anything else. She cried when I told her that we saw shelter kids weekly and gave them our cell phone numbers.

I cried when I thought about how I was inconvenienced.

Monday, April 18, 2011

So, a bad day at court today...

Santa Clausphoto © 2007 Matti Mattila | more info (via: Wylio)

Dear Editor,
I am 46 years old. Some of my friends say there is no Purgatory.  I know that if I see it in your paper, then it’s so. Please tell me the truth; is there a Purgatory?

The Unsocial Social Worker

Dear Unsocial,

Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the optimism of an optimistic age. They believe that courts and communities want to do the best for all children. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their optimistic minds. All minds, Unsocial, whether they be men’s, or attorney’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an any, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world around him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Unsocial, there is a Purgatory. It exists as certainly as Permanent Managing Conservatorship, which allows parents to continually re-sue for custody each year, guaranteeing the child never really has a permanent home, and you know that this abounds to give to the attorneys’ and courts’ coffers their highest beauty and joy: more attorney’s fees and court costs. Alas, how dreary the world would be if there were no Permanent Managing Conservatorship. It would be as dreary as if there were no divorces, custody battles or supervised visitation centers.  There would be no unsecure placements, no wondering what will happen in court, no custody trials and no long term limbo for children.

Not believe in Purgatory? You might as well not believe in Santa Claus. You might get your papa to hire men to wach in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Clause coming down, what would that prove? But as long as children are not adoptable due to their parents still having some legal rights,( no matter how inappropriate they are, no matter what crimes they have committed, no matter what abuses they have committed towards other people’s children) there will be the legal limbo of Permanent Managing Conservatorship and cowardly people who choose it instead of making hard choices. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Motivational Magic

Or how you can be bored to death by a short bald ex-magician who wants you to join in on fun motivational games like "find your happy" and "cool or lame."


I had to tell a mother in her twenties this week that she will not see her child for about eight weeks. Not finding the happy in that. I am sure this motivational method is the bomb for Microsoft,. I'm sure the other Fortune 500 companies this man has spoken to  enjoyed the Musical Power Point Slides. But somehow, in a room filled with people who daily deal with tragedy and who  themselves are victims of secondary traumatic stress, Find Your Happy is trite and not exactly helpful.

And I like Polenta. Don't demean it by calling it Mushy Stuff.

Road trip....

It's my weekly trip to Austin, although this week, I have different adventures planned. After my weekly visit to a children's emergency shelter, I get to go to a luncheon to be "appreciated." Then I go to the "home office" to go to a meeting to learn why I didn't do my job. Paradox - not just for plowing fields any more.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Voice Mail

The amount of telephones possessed by an individual is inversely proportional to the amount of effort it takes to actually talk to that individual. Just ask anyone who has been trying to get in touch with me this week. One person left voice messages on my cell phone, then left messages on my office phone, then more on the cell phone and more on the office phone. I could not even get through all the cell phone voice mails until Thursday this week and the office phone (30!!) until after 5 on Friday. No, I will not be calling anyone back after 5:30 on a Friday. That would lead to very unrealistic expectations, not to mention a divorce.

There was the additional problem that there are several callers that traditionally leave messages lasting multiple minutes, using up the time allowed for everyone. Learn to share, folks!

So the State gave us Cell phones and call us Mobile caseworkers so that people can always reach us. The State forgot that we cannot answer those cell phones in court, and we can't chat on cell phones while driving with children in the car, and we can't document those calls even if we did feel comfortable using the phone while driving other people's children. Which I don't.

All this to say, one week of vacation and then when the week you return involves two full days of court and two days of traveling, there are going to be "Voice Mail full" messages on every phone, and "Email Hell" where the inbox can't take anymore. Which might be helpful when the ombudsman complaints start coming.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A tale of two babies…

It was baby day last Thursday. One of my clients gave birth, and one of my coworker’s clients gave birth in another county. Sneaky that one, because now my coworker had to go seek removal in another county, one where the judge and attorney were not already familiar with the case. Here’s the thing. If someone is not safe for older kids who can tell you what is going on, how can it be safe for the most vulnerable of all, a newborn?

One hospital is totally cooperative. They would not release the baby without an okay from our department. They even were concerned that I didn’t have a “safety plan”. I had to explain that once I had a court order, I had custody and therefore no need for a safety plan, which is not legally enforceable anyway. My hospital cooperated and the baby was safely with a foster home for the weekend. My coworker was not so lucky. She did not get a phone call within fifteen minutes of birth, and an attorney got involved and came up with some plan to protect the mother’s rights. But what is more important in this case, a mother’s rights? Or the safety of a newborn? This attorney convinced the hospital that they had no right to try to insure the safety of the baby. A mother who had at least six other children removed for safety concerns was allowed to keep a newborn simply because there was a family member who was willing to sign a piece of paper.

 The hardest thing in the world is to legally remove a newborn baby from a mother in the
hospital immediately after birth. Even if the mother has been on drugs her whole pregnancy, even if there were injuries to another infant that were horrific, there is something that is beyond words about telling a brand new mother that someone else would be caring for this little human that just came out of her body. And it sucks. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Parenting Tip 298

epic fail photos - Need for a Warning FAIL
see more funny videos

You wouldn't believe the things we actually have to tell people out loud sometimes.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Just to get you thinking....

Here is what we are up against....

Should we cut funds for education or child safety?

My comments later...

But first a joke...

A unionized public employee, a member of the Tea Party and a CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the Tea Partier and says, "Watch out for that union guy -- he wants a piece of your cookie."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Catch 22, the sequel

“We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing.”...Thanks Texas Legislature for helping do more and more with less and less...

Our dinner conversation tonight revolved around the classic, "Catch-22". Where if you are crazy enough to want out of the army, you're not crazy enough to get out of the army. We are currently doing that to the families in our counties. We court order them to take classes etc, but they can't afford them and now we aren't providing them. And yet, we say they can't get their children home because they can't take the classes. And we could teach the classes ourselves, except there is a hiring freeze and not enough staff to do the basic job, much less extra... 

Why yes. we're from the government. And we're here to help. Sort of.

I took this job because it was 40% documentation. Like I have to spend that much of my time writing about what I did with the rest of my time. Which means non work writing is a bit thin. That's what i had heard about the problem with writing for a living and trying to write fiction on the side. The good thing is that I have lots of new characters to draw from. People you'd never think really existed do exist and call me on the phone several times a week and ask me to do impossible things. Like believe whatever lies they're telling me at th moment. Good thing I have a built in BS meter. Although the way it's been red-lining lately, I may need to get it re-calibrated.