welcome to the danger zone

My Life in the Thril Chill Baby Snatcher’s Cult

Okay, very few of you will understand the title to be a riff on the band name “My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult” – just like hardly anyone got the “attempted murder” picture of 2 crows…but whatever..

here goes

I started to write a blog entry about the fact that people who talk trash on the internet using pseudonyms or “guest” entries about people and events they know very little about. I wanted say things like “you don’t know anything” – but instead I thought I would share what the agency I work for, namely Children and Youth, does and does well. Let me tell you about my month – a month that is typical for nearly everyone in any CYS agency – and by the way, my name is Diane Pietkiewicz. and if you want to toss labels at me, I wear the following proudly: Feminist. Mother. Writer. Liberal. Pacifist. Socialist. Dreamer. Friend. Snarky. Artist. Idealist. Intellectual. Listener. Human.

Baby Snatchers Club

I am behind in my paperwork. The paperwork required to prove I am doing my job; the paperwork I have to do so that the money that funds the work I do continues to be provided by the government. I’ve stayed late, come in on the weekend, not getting paid for a lot of it, because I feel I need to get the work done, and I am willing to do what I need to do to get it done. Yeah, it’s a cushy job I have…my little five foot deskspace in a high traffic area where people are on the phone or talking or walking behind me nearly all day long. I probably didn’t take a break today, or lunch. I probably had to stop whatever I was doing at some point to go manage some crisis – someone’s lights are being turned off, or someone is being evicted, or got in trouble at school or having a mental meltdown, or needs a ride NOW to an appointment. I will probably have to go to a house with sticky floors, a horrible smell, or maybe even bed bugs. I’ll be around at least one sick adult or child. I’ll have at least one person cuss at me, rant and rave at me, give me an excuse why they didn’t do what they were supposed to do, tell me I am ruining their life, and/or pretend not to hear me when I show up for an appointment. And as soon as I start to feel like I am getting caught up, I’ll make a mistake. I’ll leave at the end of the day, sign out on the board with when I will be back tomorrow, and drive home thinking about all of the things I should have gotten done but didn’t, worry if I am doing enough, believed someone who was lying, or worse, accused someone of being less that truthful when they were telling the truth. I’ll doubt my judgment and if something bad happens out of my control, I will blame myself for months. I’ll have people question my decisions, but also trust me enough to let me make them. If I am lucky enough to be on call for a week, I may be able to be woken up in the middle of the night to answer a call from the police who have a child in their custody whose parent may have overdosed, or died from natural causes and has no family so I’ll need to find some foster home to take them in the middle of the night, and then pick up that poor, scared child in my car, and drive them to a foster home which can be more than an hour away to place them in the arms of some stranger who isn’t their mommy or daddy. Then I’ll have to deal with the plethora of paperwork that that requires, and probably have to go to court first thing in the morning, so whatever else was planned is now moot. On court days, I get to go and testify about how parents are failing, sometimes sitting in court for hours until it’s my turn to testify for 10 minutes. Sometimes I will get to take children from the arms of their crying mother and not be able to tell them where they are going. Sometimes I get to tell kids their parents aren’t coming to see them. Sometimes is usually most times. And sometimes, despite careful attention and scrutiny to details and thorough investigation, the law says we don’t have enough evidence to take a child from a home, we have not crossed the threshold that dictates removal, or even if the child was endangered on day 1, it is day 11, and the danger no longer exists, and the danger has been mitigated. And then something terrible will happen, and it will be MY fault, not the parents, or the extended family who wanted nothing to do with the situation until something bad happens and needs someone to blame. And then those who have had to deal with the agency with regard to their own issues will leap out and talk about how we ruin people’s lives when we are involved and how we also ruin people’s lives when we aren’t.

Some mornings I get up early to give my clients a ride to jobs and appointments because the bus system isn’t as accommodating as I am. I give up my Saturday morning to meet with people whose jobs prevent them from meeting me during the week. I spend time trying to find furniture/baby items/clothes/food/etc for client’s who need it. I listen as people cry to me about how hopeless they feel. I cry when I get home because I see things that just shouldn’t happen and I deal with people who like to tell me how to do my job even though they probably wouldn’t  last one day doing it. I also have days where I have clients thank me for helping them, I see things improve, I get kids and parents the help they need, I help heal relationships, I see kids succeed and then I get to say good bye and hope the family continues to succeed. I’ve been spit at, and had explain to coworkers that I had to take their sweater home to wash it because I wrapped a cold child in it who I just found out had head lice. I have also been given big hugs from little arms and seen tears of gratitude after I’ve help someone feed their family for the holiday. I’ve wrapped my arms around coworkers who have had to face things you can’t imagine, and I’ve had sleepless nights haunted by empty eyes of child I have to remove from their home. I’ve laughed with my families, I’ve cried after meeting with them. I’ve sat in the car sometimes wondering how I can forget what I just saw. I’ve searched my car for change at two am to find enough money to buy a hungry kid a donut; a kid who hasn’t eaten since yesterday to make sure there is something in their belly before I take them to a group home. I’ve carried kids with no shoes in the rain so their feet don’t get wet.

I had to make difficult decisions that most people would never want to make. I work with amazing people. We don’t always have the right answers. We can’t always see into the future, and a lot of our choices have to be bandaids on an emergency until we can figure out how to fix something long term. This doesn’t even include the amount of time we waste trying to get adults to act like adults and learn to talk to each other to reconcile their differences instead of using the agency as their tool of revenge. So feel free to pass judgment on me and my peers. I’d be happy to let you do my job, but I care too much for my families to let that happen. And tomorrow, I’ll get up and do it all again. Maybe if people cared more about their neighbors and lent a helping hand instead of pointing a finger, maybe there would be less time to critique my job and the agency.

The great thing about the work I do is that it still lets me have hope, that no matter how ugly the world is, there are still good people who want to change it, not just sit in judgment of it. Thank you to my coworkers for the work you do. Everyone in our agency wants our families to be safe and successful, because we don’t work there because of the prestige and perks. Unless you really like bedbugs. And paperwork. Now, I must go, because I have some paperwork to do. I always have paperwork to do – even at 9:30pm on a Wednesday night.

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