What I do all day is pretty awesome. As some of you already know, I work at a case management organization called Devereux that serves children and families in need, specifically dealing with children in the dependency system (aka kids in foster care). Oh yeah I work for the sometimes not so liked Department of Children and Families, but not directly, see they privatized back in 2004 in FL and divided the work up to various case management organizations.
This whole foster care business has been turned into a dirty little secret that not many people in our country talk about or even know about. It wasn’t until I graduated college and became a Public Ally that I realized thousands of children were in the foster care system in just the Central Florida area alone. It’s been my experience that people don’t care to hear those nitty gritty details. People cringe at the thought of children being neglected, abused or abandoned by their very own family…and perhaps they don’t talk about it because they’d rather believe it doesn’t happen. I wish it didn’t.
I work as a Family Finder and Connections Coordinator. Most of the kids I serve aren’t even kids, they’re full grown teenagers who have spent most, if not all, of their life in the foster care system moving from foster home to group home to foster home to a relative to…well you get the idea. Some of these children were removed when they were little ones and lost all contact with their extended family members, brothers and sisters, childhood best friends and their favorite second grade teacher. Remember, when a child is removed, they are removed from everyone, not just Mom and Dad. Most of the teens I work with are 16 and 17 years old and can’t name one adult connection and it’s my job it change that.
This is how I do it…
1) I read through all of their old DCF files page by page.
2) Run background searches and talk with the teens themselves to see if I can figure out who is in their family, where they live and find out if they can be a stable connection.
3) I call the family (those can get interesting), I write letters, I find them on facebook and send them messages and emails.
4) I visit people in jail if need be..
I do whatever it takes to find connections for my kids. I might sound brave but I wasn’t always this way. At first I was terrified to work with teens. I was scared they wouldn’t want me to be in their lives. I didn’t want them to think I was someone who was going to just come and go like all their therapists and case managers. Now it does take a while to earn the trust of a teen who has been foster care for over a decade, but it is worth being patient for. I know its sounds all fluffy, sweet and cute but I think the world of these kids. Mostly because the world doesn’t think much of them.
So there it is, that’s what I do all day as a Public Ally. I hope you enjoy your job as much as I do…and if you’re an Ally who does too, comment below and brag about it!!