“We have a hard enough time getting our 4-6 year olds adopted. We don’t have much hope of getting our teenagers adopted.” This was said by a supervisor at a child welfare agency; an agency who is tasked with finding homes for children…all children.
My ears heard it but my mind was having a hard time translating it. This sad statement was said in a meeting between the agency, myself, and a group of recruiters from the Dave Thomas foundation. I sat with the recruiters and we tried to convince the agency to allow us to help with the recruiting of families for their teenagers who were aging through the foster care system.
This statement was said in the presence of other supervisors and case workers who sat silent nodding in defeated agreement and I was done. I spent the last year working as a recruiter trying to find homes for these wonderful kids but at every turn the agency we were trying to help resisted, and fought, and kicked and screamed, and rejected our assistance. Every meeting, every conversation, every contact with the agency was like entering in to a world where the floor was the ceiling and the ceiling was the floor and everything I thought I knew was contradicted, challenged and shot down.
In this same meeting, I was chastised for presenting to the agency a perspective adoptive mother who was looking to adopt one of their “unadoptable” teens. I had done my job and brought to them a woman who was qualified, had done the requirements, had a valid home study and was willing to begin the conversation of adopting one of the agency’s youth. During the meeting the supervisor asked me what she should do with the home study I had forwarded to her. I didn’t know how to respond.
I wanted to scream, “How ‘bout you do your job and we try to find this child a home?” Why was she asking me how to do her job? Didn’t she know the process? I simply responded, “ That sounds like an internal process that you and your people will have to address.” I was done and tired from walking on the ceiling.
I spent the last year meeting these great kids and in each one I saw me. In each one I saw what could have been my fate and it hurt. I hurt for them and the guilt I felt weighed on me. I saw amazing children that were camouflaged in hurt who had been “saved” by the system only to be victimized by it. I saw kids who were pushed through a process; a process that took priority over the needs of the kids and I wanted to scream. The Dave Thomas Foundation saw value in these kids and has put together an amazing program to find homes for the children. In the agencies where the Dave Thomas Foundation has been allowed to work success has been found and the results are impressive. Unfortunately, the agency I was working with refused to see what could be done. Instead they would respond saying things like, “We have done it this way for over 30 years….” Again, my mouth dropped open. I can’t think of any other organization who would take pride in the fact that they haven’t changed in 30 years. The organizations that don’t change– fail and this organization has a long history of failure. It has become a relic, a floor model TV with a tube; just something taking up space and I was done.
For a year I was trapped in a system that didn’t see the need for change and trying to get them to change was like trying to change the course of a cruise ship in a back yard pool; it was impossible. My ability to impact lives and exact change was bound and gagged and I struggled mightily to find my place in this upside down system.
The morning of the meeting where I was told teenagers don’t have a chance at adoption, I was offered a job and the opportunity to go back to being an insurance adjuster. This meeting and the frustrations of the past year made my decision easy and after a year in the system I HAD to get out. I accepted the offer at the insurance company and gave my two week notice. Over the last year, these are the lessons I’ve learned. .
- My strength is not working from with in the system. My joy comes from impacting lives and making change and the system I was in was not built for that and I was not built for it. I have become accustomed to making a difference. In this blog, or when I speak, or do training I know I am helping someone and that matters to me.
- Working with kids in care is not my gift. It was too painful and my skill set is not designed to work with kids. My skill set is to work with adults who are interested in making things better for children. The energy that was drained from me was not healthy. In that year of work I wrote maybe two or three blogs. The triggers that went off for me while working with these great kids dissolved my creative energy and didn’t allow me to do what I am good at and enjoy.
- Finding what you’re good at sometimes means finding out what you’re not good at.
- The system is broken and I’m not sure how it will get fixed. The group and system that I worked in was like a large boulder that was pushed down a steep hill. No one knew who pushed and no one dared to try and stop it. The momentum behind the boulder is too great for any one person to change its direction. It will take a courageous cultural shift within this organization to redirect its course and the leadership to do that isn’t present at this time.
I choose to walk away because this is not my lane of travel. Many will argue that I gave up and walked away and turned my back on those caught in the system and that is something I struggled with over and over. Believe me the guilt that is attached to me from walking away is felt with every step. But in the end, I am not much good if I too am bound. I don’t have within me the power to change the system and I had to get out before the evil fog of the system enveloped me and changed me. My hope is the impact I will make will be in a place where I function best and the best me hopefully will make others better. I look forward to getting back to writing and contributing the best I can.