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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Youth remind us that they need ongoing support

A recent conference of youth involved in foster care, saw them raise a series of points that should act as a wake up call to child protection workers everywhere. The story in The Hartford Courant notes that children who are in permanent care of child protection still want the kind of support, encouragement and monitoring that says they matter.  They also want to be encouraged to achieve such as going on to post secondary education.

The need for ongoing contact was sought even when the youth was doing well. As these youth note, and as I have heard clinically on many occasions, if you are seen as managing and not getting into difficulty, then the social worker tends to not see you. An example is seen from the story, "Rohan Brown, who lives in Shelton and attends Mitchell College, said that one reason he does not hear often enough from his social worker is because he is doing well.

"I was told I'm supposed to have a monthly visit," said Brown, 21. "I haven't had a monthly visit in six months."
Rohan said he'll get a call from his social worker, who says: " 'Oh you're doing fine … I'll see you some other time.' That's absolutely not fine. My mom didn't want to see me; now I feel like you don't want to see me."
Large caseloads can often mean that workers focus on kids who are not doing well. This is understandable, but may not be serving the kids who need supports to ensure that "doing well" translates into successful transitions into adulthood.
One youth at the forum also raised the idea that, like parents in families where children go onto post secondary education, start talking about it long before the transition is to occur - plant the idea that it is a good thing and possible not just before high school graduation.
These are good reminders for social workers who are acting as parents to children. Regrettably, for many children, there are too many changes in social workers making it hard for them to develop a relationship. In British Columbia, a youth actually applied to the court to keep his social worker even though the worker would be stationed hundreds of kilometres away. The court granted his application. The youth credits the relationship as part of why he has been able to continue a successful life course.

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