I have the utmost respect and admiration for those in the medical and health fields. They are responding without fail to an invisible enemy. Risking their lives every day to care for those who have been stricken with the COVID 19 virus. Often working long and treacherous hours, these heroes rise daily to the call. I thank them for their service.
There is another group, not quite as well known, certainly not as well portrayed. The social workers, therapists and mental health providers. While the medical heroes are taking care of the physical ravages of the virus, the social workers and mental health workers are taking care of the emotional/mental ravages. Domestic Violence calls to the crisis line have drastically increased since the shelter in place requirements. Child Welfare agencies are reaching out to foster care agencies with the urgent need for more placements. Anxiety and Depression, stemming from the pandemic, requires the response of those therapists and counselors who stand at the ready.
Our foster care team meets weekly to take our own temperature and to discuss the ups and downs of the week. While there are some honest anxiety expressed at times regarding the need to continue seeing clients in the face of the risks, the overwhelming response I hear is one of concern over the welfare of their clients. I am often amazed at the resiliency and dedication that these staff exhibit every day. I wanted to share some stories with you.
John (no names are real) came from a place of abuse. This young man had experienced multiple placements in his young life. His trauma behavior was high and he was angry at the world. So angry that he sabotaged every foster home, thus confirming the self-fulfilling prophecy of his mind: No one wants me. I have no worth. His behavior led to his expulsion from his day care. With a foster parent who works in an essential job, there was no one to take him in all day. The above scenario completes the textbook case of placement disruption. In very many cases, this child would have to be moved again, suffer another loss and another devaluation of his life.
And it would have been the same for him, but for a social worker and a therapist who are taking him on every day. And every day, he demonstrates his anger and defiance at them, daring them to stop caring. Sullen one minute and raging the next, he pushes everyone away with all his might. They come back. Every day, they come back. Every day, despite the dangers of face to face visits, they come back. They don’t give up. And I believe they will get through.
Brenda is a social worker in a rural area. Despite the fact that the state has agreed for visits to be virtual, she sees her foster children face to face. It is important to her that they know she is there for them, to listen to them, and to see them. Greg has made late night trips to a foster home where a child threatened to run away. Being there in person, he was able to help the youth understand the underlying anger and to re-frame the emotions in different behavior. Such a connection could not have been achieved via Zoom.
I understand that there are multiple essential heroes that have come forward to care for our population while we are all under the cloud that is COVID 19. I wanted to highlight the social workers, therapists and counselors.
Every day, with their deeds and their actions they are saying, “I may be afraid, but I wont let a child hurt, I wont let a family suffer. They are calling out for my help. I will answer the call.”