As I write this post, I am sitting in my hotel in Washington DC, preparing to check out after a fantastic mind opening conference by the National Council of Behavioral Health. I am so grateful for the opportunity to hear great speakers and to participate in collaborative workshops that fed my hunger for ideas and strategies to improve my practice.
The conference was a great experience to check off my bucket list, as I ponder my impending doom.
The inevitable argument that I have with myself at this juncture now begins.
Stop being silly! Planes fly every day and hardly ever crash!
Hardly ever? It just takes the one time if you are on the plane. I think I will pay 300.00 for a rental car and drive the 12 hours home.
That’s ridiculous! You know you are going to get on that plane so stop torturing us!
I can’t breathe.
You can breathe. You are not going to let the fear of flying control you. You are stronger than that. Get your bags and go get on the plane!
Fine. But if we crash I’m never talking to you again.
Silly? Yes. But unfortunately true. I do have an irrational fear of flying. I didn’t used to have it. I used to love flying. I have flown all over the world. I have even flown to Australia. However, after 9-11, I was impacted by a sudden fear of flying. Determined not to let an irrational fear control my life, I have an internal dialogue of self talk before each flight. And I have never NOT gotten on a plane despite that fear. Interestingly enough, if I am in the seat next to someone else who was afraid of flying I find myself comforting them and my fear lessening.
I know that fear stems from the fact that from the time I board the plane until I disembark, I have absolutely no control. I am totally at the mercy of the pilots, the weather and even stray geese. In other words, I am helpless to prevent any of those things from impacting my flight. And in fact my very life. It is a very uncomfortable feeling; being helpless.
Experiencing the feeling of helplessness can be overwhelming. But, the blessing of my ordeal is that my helpless feeling ends when I hear that telltale mechanical whine. and accompanying thud of the landing gear lowering as we approach the runway…and the gift of control is once again within my reach. In other words, after 2, 5 or 16 hours depending upon my destination I am whole again.
I often wonder…What if I had to walk around feeling helpless, out of control and fearful all of the time??? What if other people made every day normal decisions for me…without my input or permission?
What if a stranger…
Told me where to live…and with whom
Told me I had to leave my friends and move
Told me I had to start over in a new school
Told me no matter how much I missed my family, I could only see them in structured supervised meetings.
And if I felt I couldn’t breathe and lashed out at anyone/everyone… then I would be told to see a psychiatrist and get put on meds…
Not to give Me control, but to give Them control of Me?
That is the experience of many kids in Foster Care.
Dont get me wrong, when children are unsafe in their own home and there are no relatives willing and able to care for them, foster care can be a safe haven. There are multitudes of wonderful, caring foster parents who share their home and their hearts to foster children. There are a multitude of committed, skilled social workers who pour compassion, understanding and care into foster children.
Foster care is not the answer to all of the child safety issues…
It should be the last resort.
Social Workers! We should view family as sacrosanct. If we truly did, we would do whatever it took to either safely keep a child with their parent (s) or with a relative where the child can retain their identity, traditions and sense of belonging…and a small amount of control in their life. That’s the way families used to operate…taking care of the family children when a parent wasn’t able to do so. It was accepted. It was natural.
Now with so many children abused/neglected every day, relatives are being overwhelmed with caring for the children of other family members. They often cannot financially take on the care of more children. Also, the complexity and severity of abuse and neglect often results in trauma behavior in these children. Relatives full of love and good intentions find that they are not equipped to address the emotional needs of the children and relinquish custody of these children, resulting in their re-entry into the system and further trauma.
Kinship Guardianship is an option to not only support the long term placement of children with relatives, but to also provide a monetary subsidy to these relatives to help them meet the needs of the child. With such an amazing outcome you would think that it would be the largest long term outcome for children in the foster care system. Sadly, it is underutilized. With much misunderstanding, miscommunication and some personal bias, kinship has not gained the stardom it deserves. And children remain in foster care; living with compassionate, loving, giving…strangers.
And they often experience feelings of helplessness.
I challenge you to research the kinship laws in your state. Look at the foster children in your caseloads with an eye for kinship permanency. Help these children regain a natural permanency and reclaim their identity, their traditions, their family. A little more control leads to a little less helplessness and reduction in fear/trauma.
So…here we go…
I am now in the airport eating lunch. I decided to order truffle fries with a defiant glare at my Weight Watcher app. I have never tasted truffle oil and I hear from the food network that it is a delicate. A fitting last meal…
For, even when I am dreading the plane ride, I still fight for control…even if it just involves my caloric intake.