To preface this post, I will say that grandpa does NOT understand what it is that I do... And he is totally unwilling to sit down with me so that I can actually explain and/or discuss my position.
I have tried to simply state things by saying that I am a family counselor. This apparently doesn't do justice for some people. And so, this post is more of a clarification.
To most, rational people, any occupation in the social services field is an inherently noble profession by trade. There are most assuredly some naysayers. It's a part of my job to clarify for them the exact role which I inhabit.
To hear my grandpa tell it, I might as well be a drug dealer, or a street walker, (both of which I could EASILY have gotten into while still living happily in Chicago... though they wouldn't have looked nearly as good on a resume.)
I'm pretty sure that in his little window on the world, he thinks that I am a godless heathen who steals babies from stable homes.... I blame this view on the Kennedy-era "Camelot" view of the world which his generation seems to have. I hate to say it, but today's world just ain't so!
For starters, I'm not the one taking babies away. That's left to the department of child services, and the police. My job is with a separate, albeit linked, company who does the leg work for the department of child services.
More specifically, my job is to go into homes where children have been removed, and do my best to equip the parents with the tools they need in order to be decent parents to the children whom in one way or another they have let down.
My job includes, but is not limited to, teaching parent aide, teaching parents appropriate discipline techniques, budgeting, helping them find employment, cleaning and maintenance of a child-friendly home environment, supervising visits between parents and children, and in cases where the children are older, and youth mentoring so that the kids understand that they are not at fault, and that they can go on to healthy successful lives despite being let down by their families. Essentially, it falls on me to reunite families when it is possible and all parties are willing, and to help people understand where they went wrong when reunification is not immediately, or at all possible.
It's not an easy job, to be sure.
In only a week on the job, I have already seen cases where kids have been removed due to parental drug use, sexual or physical abuse, neglect, and lack of minimum levels of home maintenance. My primary goal is to reassemble the pieces of these broken homes. There are certainly cases where I am hindered by the parent's lack of concern, the red-tape of the system, and the fact that some people are utterly indifferent to the young lives for which they should be responsible, and so reunification is not a feasible or healthy option.
Grandpa seems to think that all children should be raised by their natural parents. But what he doesn't choose to recognize is that some parents sadly don't give a damn for their kids. He doesn't see that some parents see their kids as a punching bag, or as an outlet for unhealthy sexual activity, or that toddlers are sometimes thought of as entities which can take care of themselves when mom or dad want to go away for months on end for a drug binge.
Basically the fact of the matter is that these children have been removed for a reason, and it is my job to be an advocate for their needs when the parents are unfit to do so.
Grandpa doesn't seem to understand that families who maintain healthy and stable homes are not the ones involved with social services.
It takes a great deal of patience to supervise a visit between a mother and a child when it's clear that the mom would much rather sit and draw pictures than interact with the children she is supposed to love. It takes an immense amount of dedication to tell that mother, that even though I don't have kids, this is not the way you should interact with them, and then demonstrate activity that should be second nature to her, but somehow isn't... or to tell a parent that you can't have a home where some form of feces has been spread all over the floor and there are roaches on the wall, and to still expect a child to function normally... I don't knock anyone else's job, but I think it takes someone special to be able to calmly diffuse the anger associated with people removing children from any home, and then trying to aid people in fixing the reasons why it occurred.
I was in a meeting last week, and one of the supervisors emphasized that this is not the kind of job where you can take your work home with you, because you can't be responsible for other people's negative choices. He said, "There are only two places where a person is at peace, one is at home, and the other is the grave." And while I think he speaks the truth in part, I also think it is our job to recognize that there is no peace for the kids in these homes. And while, for our own sanity we have to leave whatever happens at work behind when we go home of an evening, we should grow from what we see, and do our very best to change the ugly things we see in the world. Because before you can have an impact on the world, the world must have an impact on you.
Whatever the case, it beats hookin.