10 June 2011

if no one else shows up, i will


i am a...
college-educated, state licensed, client advocating, social server, therapy providing, systems, testing, family preserving, minority supporting, social conscious raising, data collecting, disease preventing, child defending, staff developing, human assisting, strength focused, social rights championing, ego lending, crisis intervening, teacher, facilitator, listener, encourager, supporter, leader, with professionalism, integrity, concern, empathy, values, love, trust, honest, warmth, basic agent for change ...social worker.
*note: i am all of these things except state licensed - i got lazy when i got preggers and didn't take the test. :)

professionally, this week was a bit of a doozy for me. i got back to work full time since i left on maternity leave in march. but since i'd been back part time for the last month, switching to full time didn't make much of a difference to me (other than ruby & i actually having to get our butts out of bed before 9 am.)

no, what was difficult were a couple cases that i covered for some co-workers of mine. i work in a program that works with young adults that are involved in the court system due to severe mental illness and are at risk of being placed outside their homes (or already are). i've become fairly desensitized to the kind of work i do and rarely get rattled by the extreme behavior i see on a daily basis. but yesterday, i had to attend two different court hearings for two different young men. though their circumstances were different, they each were facing new delinquency charges and were being held in secure detention and brought up to the courtroom for their hearings.

nothing about this was new to me. i've seen many of the kids i work with handcuffed, sometimes in shackles, brought up to court. and it can be a sad sight, for sure, but witnessing this scene now - as a mom - it just feels different. both of these kids really had no idea what the judge was telling them - because i know them, i know they're not intellectually able to understand. as the judge was explaining to them the possible repercussions of their substantial battery charges (a felony for one of them), i couldn't stop watching each boy. it was clear they were nodding when they thought they should, saying "yes, ma'am" with the hope of getting out of there as quick as possible. and as i looked around the court room, neither of them had any family present. just the legal parties. and me. that's it. 

and that, boys and girls, is precisely why those boys were sitting in a courtroom, in the first place.

the realization of this suddenly broke my heart and i found myself blinking away tears. i know the parents that i work with are exhausted dealing with their kid who, from their perspective, is completely out of control. but i want to tell them - if you would just show up for your kid. show some support, regardless of whether they deserve it at the moment. remember how you felt about them when they were little babies and you could hold them in your arms; when you promised to protect them from anything that would hurt them. and now, set aside your pride, and accept the simple fact that YOU are the one that is hurting them.

i don't have all the answers. i know that i only have the tiniest bit of experience in parenting. i am terrified when i think of all the ways that ruby will test our patience and that she will one day make choices that might hurt her and me. but what my job working with these kids has taught me is that supporting ruby, even if i could not disagree more with a choice she makes, is the best i can give to her. she'll never understand how i would give anything to ensure her safety, success, and happiness, but i will do whatever it takes to make sure she knows that i will always show up for her.

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