FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION A Loose Definition of Success The role of a social worker is to act in the best interest of the children they are working with, to make sure the basic needs of each child is met. The social workers feel as if they are being successful at their jobs as long as the children that are on their caseloads age-out of the foster care system and are not in jail the next day. Or they are successful if the youth they are working with actually graduate from high school.
As a social worker it should be seen as successful if the children that they are working with are learning the skills that they need to become well-functioning members of society, and are able to obtain the goals and dreams that they have. To be successful one must succeed, and succeed by definition means “to turn out well” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). The definition of success by the social workers is a loose definition of turning out well, but if the youth ages-out in jail it could be said that they turned out well.
The social worker see that they did a job well done if the children went to school and graduated even though in one interview one respondent said “If a foster kid doesn’t attend school, they spend the weekend in a juvenile detention center, so they have time to reflect on their behavior of skipping school”, a child not in foster care would get a visit from a truancy officer. The youth stated that they would not skip school in most cases because they would rather not go to a juvenile detention center.
These youth were in some pretty bad homes as it was so the threat of going somewhere that most kids see as worse was not necessarily something these youth wanted to do. If the success of a foster youth and a job well done for a social worker is just a child graduating high school where does that leave the foster youth that want to go to college? The role of the youth in the foster care is to live in a home outside of their biological families homes, and to be successful in these homes.
Being successful in the homes is saying that these youth are living in a respectful manner according to the rules of the foster parents and the social workers, living in peace with other foster children, or the children of the foster parents. Being uccessful in the foster care system also means not causing trouble, or raising complaints about a foster family, or getting into trouble with the law, school system, or just in general. As a foster youth you are expected to follow the old saying that children are meant to be seen and not heard.
This is a true concept for when the foster parents have people over, or are spending time with their children, or when the social worker is doing a home visit. Most of the youth that were interviewed said that they felt that they could not ever talk to their social workers about what was happening in the homes they were placed in. However some of the youth that I interviewed stated that sometimes acting out was the easiest way to get moved into a different home.
One respondent said that they would purposely just not eat anything while they were in a particular home, this respondent said “I just wouldn’t eat anything they tried to get me to eat. I also wouldn’t talk to anyone in the home, I knew they would call my social worker and then she would move me out of concern. I did this because the home was so bad, there were like five other foster kids there, and then they had three or four kids of their own. I don’t remember exactly how many kids they had because it was so long ago, but it was just a bad home.
The foster parents… didn’t ever care to take care of any of the foster kids there, we pretty much had to fend for ourselves. They were either always at work or busy with their kids, but when they did pay attention to us, [the dad] would just yell at us foster kids, or hit us for not doing something that they had left on the never ending chore list. ” So this respondent found that acting out was the easiest and most effective way to get what she felt she needed.
It was her way of successfully meeting her needs. This respondent also said that she would have rather spent time in a juvenile detention center, than be in school because at school she was just another foster kid who was not going to succeed in any way. The foster youth see success in a very different way, they see that graduating high school is only a very small success, even though in a few interviews it was said that graduating high school was not something many foster youth had done before.
They saw it as a small success because it was not a priority to them, they were so focused on just survival, even though they had a system that was backing them, keeping tabs on them and making sure that they were still alive, and well. They felt like their time in the foster care system was just a time of fighting for survival. One respondent who I will call Billy said “Everyday it was just a struggle to stay alive, either at the hand of an angry foster dad, or my own lack of interest in life.
I didn’t want to be alive anymore because of the way I was being treated by the foster family I lived with, but I just didn’t want to switch homes again. I had been in twelve foster homes by the age of fifteen. I just wanted to spend my high school years in one place. But I paid the price for wanting to stay in one school, my foster dad would drink and he would get violent. It was only me and another guy in the home and we could fend for ourselves, we could take the beating.
We never said anything to the county worker when she came. We just survived, we would watch out for each other. Surviving became the only thing that I focused on, when he got drunk, you felt like he was gonna kill you, even if you had done nothing wrong. ” Billy saw just staying alive in the home that he was in as a fight to survive, all because he had moved around so much before he started high school and wanted consistency and to stay in one school for four years.
Billy’s case is more common than one would like to think, another respondent, Jeorge, said “While I was in high school | started playing football because it was something that my foster parents wanted me to get involved in school, because I was struggling to make friends and I was not doing too well in my classes. So they made me play football, I didn’t really want to play, when I said that, the foster dad got really mad at me and he smacked me hard, but the was the least of my worries.
He got more violent as my time there went on, he would lash out at me if his kid did something wrong, or he would hit me if he was mad at his wife, it got worse as I got older, but I didn’t say nothing because I didn’t want to move, I mean for the first time I was doing good enough in school, I had friends, and I liked going to school because it was an escape. ” So Jeorge is also enduring abuse just to maintain the same school that he was already attending, Jeorge never says how many foster homes he was in before his last most long term home, however he did make a comment about not keeping count after the first four.
Power There is a clear power dynamic struggle between the foster youth and the social workers that work with these youth. All social workers say that they are looking out for the best interest and needs of the children that they are working with. The power to make choices about a child’s lives without the child having any say. These social workers have the power and ability to control these foster youth’s lives and in some cases their actions, because some of the youth think that if they do everything the social worker is asking of them they will get moved to a better home.
So the youth who feel as if they will get moved to a better home, they will if the social worker says to jump they will say how high. But on the other hand you have youth that done things like not eating or talking to get moved to a different home, because the youth who do sabotage their homes, feel as if no home is going to be home be a good home. The use of the power that social workers have is used to control the actions and behaviors of the foster youth.
The foster youth feel as if they have little power, but the power that they do have they tend to use to benefit themselves, as do most people who have any sort of power, they know that if they do whatever is being asked of them, that they will possibly get a nicer home. It isn’t always the case but it is worth the try. Worth The foster youth that were interviewed for this research all have expressed a great pleasure in feeling needed.
They like it when a boss calls them in on their day off because they feel that they are a valuable employee or that they have some sort of selfworth that their boss needs them even when they were not originally scheduled. One respondent, Amber, said “it’s like they can’t survive without me, but I like it. I feel needed. ” Everyone one in their own variation of words has said that for the first time in their lives that when someone needs them they feel important to someone.
As Amber feels that she has a worth to her employer, because he always needs her to come in on her day off, others feel like they do not have a lot of worth, or that they to themselves aren’t worthy of certain things. Billy said “well, I would have food stamps if my boss would have remembered to sign the paper. But you know he is busy and all, and he forgot, but that’s okay I don’t need them that bad. ” When asked if he could reapply his response was “yea but I don’t really want to have to bug everyone again.
You see I make enough to put food in my stomach and pay my bills. I just don’t have no more than twenty dollars left over, I don’t need them like some people. ” However the guidelines for qualifications for such assistance programs, are put into place and Billy does qualify for them, so he does need them. There are things that Billy said he goes without. Billy puts his needs after others, as does Amber, because Amber said that sometimes she could just use a day off, even when her boss needs her.
These youth seem to put themselves after everyone else because, they haven’t started to see that they should feel important to themselves first, and then to others. They haven’t ever been made to feel like they themselves are a priority, so they feel as if they should be putting themselves last, because that is how they have felt most of their lives. Pain The youth who are in the foster care system and those that have aged-out have experienced a great deal of deep pain and pain on many different levels.
The pain is different for every different youth, and it is expressed or not expressed in different ways as well. These youth are experiencing pain whether we see it or not. The pain they experience could come from being taken away from their families of from feeling like they did not do enough to better themselves so that their families would want to talk to them again. These vouth have said they would do anything for their biological families to want to take them back again or even just to have a phone call with someone in their families.
Some of these youth who were aging out reached out to the only person they knew who would have contact information for their families, their social workers. One respondent, Jamie, recalls her interaction with her social worker when she was two days from 18, “I tried to get their address or phone number from that bitch who was my social worker… but that dumb bitch said it was not in my best interest to give it to me. What she doesn’t know is that she fucked me over, I have no way of getting the number now.
I have called her office and left voicemails and she never calls back”. These youth all tell a similar story of wanting one thing, their family back. They all want a family to love them, or a family to call when they have had a bad day. Billy said “if I could give everything back, like every gift I was ever given, every paycheck lever earned, and at the end I would have my mom back in my life I would do it in a heartbeat. But you remember, my mom got arrested for drugs because of me, she don’t want to talk to me anymore. In Billy’s case he would have given anything up, just to lessen the pain he feels for not having her in his life. Billy was taking the blame for his mother’s drug problem. His desire and need for a family and the love of a mother was so intense that he would do anything to just be able to talk to her again. These youth all seemed to just roll with whatever life was throwing their way and just continuing to survive the best that they can. The youth feel intense pain that we don’t always see but it is there. Social workers may not see the pain that these youth are facing.
As most of the social workers only see the children they work with once a month. And even when they do see the youth, it’s not as if the youth are being honest with them, the youth will minimize the pain they feel to their social workers, foster parents, and just about everyone else. They are so used to just keeping everything that is bad and ugly to themselves, that when someone asks them about it they aren’t honest about the way they are feeling. These youth are often then pushed aside in the work load because they are doing fine and others may not be doing fine.