Over Worked, Under Paid, but in the Center of Society

Since I have been working for the Department of Family and Children Services this blog post has been stewing in my mind day after day and it is ready to be let out.

Anyone who has been in foster care, been a foster parent, or who has worked for DFCS before already knows exactly what I’m talking about. But for the rest of you, I think there is a disconnect in what we actually do and what actually happens behind the scenes.

Recently I was watching a show called The Killing on Netflix. In the show, CPS investigators come to the door of the main character multiple times because she has left her 11 year old son unattended. The CPS investigators are two huge men in suit and tie, with slicked back hair and huge fists that bang on her door. When I was watching this I was comparing the scene to our real DFCS investigators in our office and I couldn’t help laughing (almost entirely women who are very kind and understanding).

But these kinds of misconceptions are floating around everywhere, and I just want to dispel some of them for you.

We are not baby snatchers. Our goal is not to separate children from their parents. We investigate child abuse and we protect children. If at all possible, we place children with capable relatives that can take care of them. If we HAVE to, we take children into foster care to keep them safe.

Obviously I can’t speak for every case manager in the state, but let me explain to you some reasons why perhaps you have seen bad outcomes or break downs in the system;

  • Case managers have way too many cases to actually do their job effectively
  • Case managers have Secondary or First Hand PTSD that is never addressed
  • There aren’t enough foster/adoptive parents to care for the needs of all the children in our state that need it.
  • Case managers quit quickly because the amount of work and the pay for that work is not enough for the stress this job puts them through
  • Because cases change case managers so often, children in foster care do not receive the attention they deserve in their case. Case managers have to spend time re-learning case history.
  • There are not enough services of support specifically for DFCS case managers

Think about it. These are people handling with the darkest most distressing and damaging situations in our society: child abuse. Yet they only get paid 28,000 a year. That’s how much we think addressing child abuse is worth. Really?

As case managers we are constantly balancing the rights of parents against the rights of their children. That is not easy. And remember ultimately, it is your local judicial judge who is actually making these decisions.

As many of you already know, our development in childhood is crucial to our functioning as an adult. Abused and neglected children are proven to have more issues in school, more issues socially, issues with attachment, issues with substance abuse, etc. The list could go on. If there is no positive intervention in their lives, the damaging effects of trauma on the developing brain can be catastrophic. If there is no intervention, the cycle of abuse is likely to continue, and it affects all of us.

Have you ever wondered if that drunk driver was drinking because he/she couldn’t escape from painful memories of abuse in childhood? Have you ever wondered if that homeless man flunked out of school because his parents were addicted to meth and taught him no life skills?

Would you have known the right way to live in this world if no one taught you?

I’m so sick of hearing “Our foster care system is so broken.” It’s broken because people are broken and they are sinners. And for some reason, people feed themselves these lines of excuses; “well we couldn’t foster now because…” fill in whatever reason you want. There are plenty of reasons not to foster but one reason to foster that trumps all the rest:

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress,and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27

Fostering is messy. It’s not easy. In fact, it is extremely difficult. It may impact your own kids negatively. But in that process you are teaching them a deeper lesson: that it is important to die to yourself and to serve others even when it inconveniences you. It is more important to show the love of Christ to the orphans and the hurting in our society than for you to live an easy life.

A few ways you can help:

  1. Raise up foster parents in your church and build support systems around those parents.
  2. Have your church intentionally support your local DFCS office. Throw events for the case managers or offer free counseling. Bring lunch to your local county’s office. Make this job better for everyone.
  3. Write a letter to the governor or to your local representative to raise the pay and the benefits of DFCS. Shout out to Nathan Deal for giving us a raise! Woot woot!

That last one sounds trite but it really isn’t because we need the best of the best in these jobs. We need to raise the caliber of what it means to be DFCS staff. To be hired on at DFCS it should be an honor. This department is responsible for the futures of so many in society, and that should not be considered lightly.

Take a step. Do what little (or much) you are able to serve the 15,000 orphans we now have in our state. If things do not change, we will all bear the consequences.

“A nation’s greatness is judged by how it treats its weakest members.” – Mahatma Ghandi

 

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