So I've been unwillingly forced to take one of the worst cases ever. I was lied to, manipulated and then forced to keep the case against my will.
So the next day I did my normal case work. And knowing that I needed to make contact with the poop house family, I knew I would have to go there. I put it at the end of my day so that I could easily go home and sanitize myself after exposure to that environment. I went about my daily business with a sense of dread that grew by the minute. At the end of everything else, I girded myself for what was to come and drove to the poop house.
I sat out in my car and tried to determine the best course of action with regard for breathing for the length of time I would be there. Breathe through the mouth and not smell the place, but obviously have an open mouth in this place, or breathe through the nose and despite smelling the place and increasing the likelihood of my vomiting, have some kind of natural defense against the foulness, (nasal inhalation filtering things a bit).
I opted for the nose, despite the nasty repercussions, they were less nasty than the alternative. So I grabbed my binder and a pen and headed to the door. I knocked. And beyond a few moments of small dogs barking at me through the grungy door, there was no reply. I left them a note saying that I'd been there and requesting that they call me to set up an appointment.
I then went home, and despite not entering the house, I left my shoes outside my front door and showered.
The next day I operated on pretty much the same premise, putting the poop house at the end of my day, unless I got a call saying that they needed to meet with me another time. The call never came, so I went back, repeated the process of mental preparation, walking to the door, knocking, and leaving a note. I did this three more times during the rest of the week. I never received a call, and nobody ever answered the door.
I submitted my paperwork for the week noting my attempts to meet with them, and continued about my business.
The next week I had gone to the office for one reason or another and while I was there I ran into a senior member of the supervisory staff.
"Hey, Liz, can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Sure, what's up?"
"I noticed that you didn't have any face to face contact with these people last week."
"Well, that's a problem! These people are involved with us because they need our services and you're not meeting with them!"
"Listen, I TRIED to meet with them. I tried a total of five times. Nobody answered the door, and nobody called to set up an appointment time despite the notes I left. I can't help that."
"Well, that's not good enough."
"What do you mean that's not good enough? I went EVERY DAY last week and nobody answered the door, and nobody called to say that they had gotten the note and wanted to set up an appointment, or to even let me know when they would be home. I can't make them be at home when I show up. I can't make them answer the door if they are home."
"Well, you've only been going once a day!"
"Are you suggesting that I'm not doing my job?"
"Well, you should be going two and three times daily or sit outside and wait for them to come home."
"Brilliant! I can only bill for the few minutes it takes me to leave the note and you want me to wait outside for them to come home... And when would you suggest I see my other clients, because last I looked, they needed our services too?"
"Well, you still need to get to all your other clients, obviously. But you really need to get in there and make sure that this kid is ok."
"You've clearly never been to this house, because there is no way that anyone who lives in that dung heap is OK! And like I said before, if they are NOT at home, or they are at home and don't choose to answer the door, I can't make it happen."
"Well, you better make something happen."
"Make something happen... That's interesting. If I don't make something happen with these folks, are you going to take them off my service?"
"No. But if we find that you're not getting your job done we can withhold your paycheck."
"I've talked to the state case worker. I went every day last week, and left notes EVERY DAY. I'm doing my job, and I take issue with you implying that I'm not. We've had TONS of evasive clients on the books who outmaneuvered our people for longer periods than just a week. Are all the workers on those cases not doing their jobs either because they are not going undercover and hunting those clients down?"
"I didn't think so. But what I do think is that despite the fact that I am disgusted by the very idea of going to that house, I have been going and doing my job, and will continue to do so. I also think that I am accomplishing nothing by standing here defending my work, rather than being out there DOING IT. So, if we're through here, I'm going to go back out there and do my job so that no one else will accuse me of anything sordid which might cost me my paycheck."
"Well, I didn't mean to offend you, I was just saying that we need people in there."
"And I've told you that I've gone. And I'm not going to stand here talking in circles with you anymore."
(It was probably roughly the time that this conversation took place that I landed myself on that shit list belonging to the supervisors which made the higher-ups sigh heavily and roll their eyes when I spoke up in meetings until the day I left... It should be noted that only the best people make that list, and that it made me a favorite among my peers.)
I shrugged him off and left the office. I was beyond pissed off, because not only was I now assigned to the worst case on the books, I got it by means of intra-office deception, I was forced to keep it despite my protests, and now I was having my integrity called into question... Red flags are running up left and right. The argument turned out to be pointless because during my visit later in the day, the door was answered. And I was sorrowfully granted access to the earthly portal to hell.
I went, and once again tried my hand at mentally preparing for the scenario for which there is not any genuine way to mentally prepare. Physical preparations can be taken, although only in the form of a hazmat suit, but since I had no access to one, and the families we work with generally become offended when we show up wearing garments designed solely to protect ourselves from their homes, it wasn't really an option.
So I mentally cursed out in my car for a few minutes. I went up the broken sidewalk and up the crumbling concrete stairs. I knocked on the grungy beige door. I listened to the little dogs barking on the other side. And just as I prepared to write out my note, I heard the lock disengage. The door creaked open a few inches, and the barking got louder. I attempted to introduce myself, but was drowned out by the growling and barking. I told the guy at the door that I was Julie's replacement, yelling over the dogs. He opened the door wider and attempted to grant me access. The little dogs came pouring out onto the small area of front porch which was not heaped with festering garbage, they circled and tried to nip at my ankles through my pant legs. It was at this point I noticed that there were four small dogs. Two brown short-haired chihuahuas, one slightly larger tan chihuahua mutt, most likely mixed with a small terrier breed, and one small greyish black dog which was roughly the size of a chihuahua, but could not be readily identified as such due to a nasty case of mange and old age which had taken large chunks of the animal's fur. Even if the fur had been in place it would still have been one of the ugliest dogs in existence. I asked him if there was some way that the animals could be stored for the time that I was there. He merely scooted them back through the door, yelled at them to shut up, and came out onto the porch himself, shutting the door behind him. It was at this point that I mentally celebrated the slight stay of execution and got my first good look at this fellow.
Picture if you will a character we will call Mitch. Mitch isn't his real name of course, but I've only ever known one other Mitch, and I found him just as revolting, though in other ways. So, Mitch stood before me. A short, dirty, repulsive little troll of a man. He stood about 5' 2" a few inches shorter than myself. He stood barefoot on the disgusting porch, which was only bested in filth by the shit-stained carpet I knew existed on the other side of the door, which he'd also clearly been barefoot upon. He wore filthy bluejeans, which were not filthy in an "I'm grubby incidentally because I've been working on a roofing job today," kind of way, but more of a "I haven't bothered to peel these bad boys off in a couple of weeks long enough to shower, let alone wash them," kind of way. A dingy t-shirt with various food stains and other stains of unknown origin really paired well with the jeans to complete the ensemble. I noticed there were several holes in both garments implying that they were not only "well-worn" and past seeing better days, it was pretty clear based on the improper fit that they were most likely also second hand from a bargain bin at the thrift store or obtained at a church clothing drive. (*I would like to note at this time that I am not judging this man, nor anyone else in a similar position for wearing thrift store clothes, or obtaining anything through charitable means when it is warranted... I am merely describing the attire so that you get an accurate picture. If I'm judging anyone mentioned in these posts, it is not for their clothing, their income, or their social standing. I am judging them for living in filth, ruining the life of a child in the home, and continuing to feign ignorance when services and resources have been at their disposal for some time.) To look at the man's face, one observes a pale sallow complexion, thin patchy whisps of brownish hair, making it appear that he is either intentionally trying to grow a beard and having all the luck of a 13 year old boy who hasn't quite made it through enough of puberty to get real beardiness, or he has just inadvertently forgotten to shave for a week and these few scraggly patches were all his body could muster. He did have a small brown moustache, and coke-bottle bifocal glasses. But the two things which really made the most lasting impression were his curly brown mullet, which he wore with a straight face, and his mouth, which was little more than a pinkish graveyard where his teeth used to be, and which currently was populated with tiny, blackened, jagged nubs where most of his teeth had once resided. (As someone who takes pride in dental hygiene, I will not kid you when I say that it hurt me to look at them, and I'm almost positive that they had to hurt him.)
I reintroduced myself once the dogs calmed down some. I noted that I was Julie's replacement on their case. I asked him to sign a consent form and asked if his wife was home. He told me she wasn't, she had actually taken the little girl to go visit grandma. He informed me that she would return later and that the whole family would be home all day the next day. I shuddered at the thought of returning the following day, but even more so at the idea of going into the festering stink hole they called home today. I tried to weigh my options... I knew I had to go in and make sure that the kid wasn't living in ... well... worse conditions than what we already knew about.
I stood on the front porch and asked a few routine questions, and tried to figure out exactly how long I could be in that house without breathing before my brain would start to die from a lack of oxygen... I knew this was it. I was already there, and it was time to go back into the belly of the beast.
(To be continued...)