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When Will My Reflection Show Who I Am Inside?

Well, I’m glad I was able to come up with a clever title for my last blog post. I gave myself extra time to reflect properly and, I’ll be honest, the title is the most creative thing I’ve come up with. I think I’ve been waiting to be struck with a muse that would have me waxing poetic about everything I learned but I’m at a loss for words. If you’ve read my other posts then you know this isn’t like me. I have so many feelings about this internship that everything I’m feeling is overwhelming my ability to form coherent thoughts, so I apologize if this post is disorganized but that’s the most honest reflection of my mental state right now.

I think the most central feeling I have is that of gratitude. I’m grateful that I was given this opportunity. I’m grateful that people let me into their homes to see a glimpse of their lives. I’m grateful for the coworkers that took time out of their incredibly busy schedules to sit me down and explain the details and nuances of their jobs. I am extremely grateful to the director who had lunch with me and provided me with insight that has brought life back to my graduate plans and career path. I’m grateful to my supervisors who took this internship on with me and the additional work of making  sure I could see all that was available at the agency. I’m grateful for the administrative assistants who educated me on the ins and outs of the front lines. I’m grateful to everyone who spoke to me in the break room and made me feel welcome.

I was at DSS for nine weeks and I met a lot of people in that time. I saw a lot of sad circumstances, people who were hurting, people who were angry, and people who needed a lot of help. But I also saw people dedicated to making people’s lives better, I saw families reunited, I saw foster kids out having fun, I saw a man overjoyed by working with a church group to have a suitable ramp put on his house. I’ve learned that when people tell you this job is hard, they really mean it but that those who stay are the ones who know just how worth it the work can be.

I’ve seen the desk work and car repairs and jammed copiers it takes to get things done. I’ve seen the serious, real impact that is made by someone reaching out and saying “I am working for your benefit. I care about your well-being. I want life to be better for you.” I’ve seen people take this work for granted and I’ve seen people make fraudulent claims and, as irritating as that can be, it takes nothing away from all of the good that I’ve seen.

Two of the most important things I’ve learned in the last few weeks in foster care are 1) there are no bad people, just bad choices/circumstances and 2) the little details often have the largest impact. You never know who you may be interacting with, you may know their full story or you may not, but you have full control of treating that person with dignity and respect. Adult, child, mentally ill, physically disabled, addict, whoever, you have to work with them and bring them to the best place possible for themselves and their families. A little respect can go a long way in making progress easier for everyone.

I have seen living understandings of intersectionality working to benefit real people and I know that what I have been studying has value outside of a classroom. I have seen theories I have only studied being used by working adults. I have seen what it is to work in my field and just how many options I have.

This internship has been enlightening for me and I am grateful and honored to have worked at DSS. I hope that has been evident and I hope what I have learned will follow me in all I do.

Thanks, Orange DSS.

But Wait! There’s More

Well, this might be the latest I’ve ever posted to my blog. I’m going to count that as a win because I’ve been at this internship for 8-ish weeks and next week is the last. I thought this might happen a lot more often.

I’m sure you’re wondering what I have in store for this next to last post. Spoilers but next week is going to be a reflection of my time at DSS so this week is my last information based post. My makeshift nest is in Foster Care still and let me tell you, I could have written for the full nine weeks about foster care and still not been able to cover everything. Foster Care has a lot going on and my FC supervisor made a comment some time ago that there’s always something someone can do to help out and that’s the inspiration for this blog post.

Maybe you read “Who Wants to Be a Foster Parent” and thought it was a worthy cause but foster parenting didn’t play to your strengths or any other reason (your reasons are your own and are valid) but you still would really like to help these kids out. Great! There are ways you can do that.

Do you like planning parties/are you good at planning parties/do you have space for some fun event like a party?

If you answered yes, then you can help out foster kids. I know that in Orange (and I’m sure in most counties) the foster care workers like to have parties or fun events for the kids to participate in every few months. In fact, just yesterday we took foster kids and their families to the Orange County Fair but we couldn’t have done it without a group generously donating tickets (shout out to Crazy Pets Club). It’s really hard to find time to plan a party and contact families and find a space for it AND provide food AND get everybody there. Or if it’s not a party, it’s hard to find an activity that is affordable and a large amount of the foster kids can go to. If you would like to do something nice for foster kids and help out a foster care worker, plan a party or donate a space or donate some food for an event or donate some tickets to an event you’re already having. This may seem like a strange way to help, but events like these show that it’s not just the department that cares about these kids but also their communities.

Are you a part of a large organization like a club or a church/are you good at things like clothing and food drives/are you super organized?

This is another great way to help out. Donations from large groups of any variety are a blessing for foster care workers. Yes, certain amounts of money are set away to provide kids with clothes and toiletries but having the right things on hand at the right time can be a challenge. If you want to set up a clothing and toiletries drive with a group you are a part of in order to make the transition for kids a little easier, I highly recommend looking into it. They need basics like shirts, pants, socks, and underwear but sometimes people don’t think about winter clothes until it’s already cold. Stock up on coats, gloves, hats, and scarves. Donate shoes! Find clothes in all sizes (most kids in foster care are over the age of 8 so keep that in mind). If you’re looking at toiletries diapers are always appreciated as are soaps, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. And in an effort to make a FC worker’s life a little easier if you could have things organized by what they are that would be amazing. The last thing I have to write in this section is the biggest so I want people to pay attention: DONATE CLOTH TOTE BAGS. I hear you asking why. Well, these bags are often a new start for these kids. They’ve just been moved out of their homes with their biological parents and a lot of the time, if they have anything, their stuff comes in trash bags. There is nothing more upsetting or demoralizing than leaving your home and having your things treated like trash so we do everything we can to make sure they have a real bag to put their clothes and toys in and the more bags we have, the better.

Do you want to donate your time or space but you aren’t really a party person?

Here’s what you can do: babysitting and support groups. Kids in foster care are only allowed to be looked after by people that have been approved by DSS so sometimes it’s really hard to find someone to babysit if you’re a foster parent. Additionally, sometimes as a foster parent you need to get advice from other foster parents and take some time to decompress. Support groups are great for foster parents and many areas like Orange would like to implement them but they need space and babysitters for foster kids. If you want to help out these foster parents for a few hours a month by getting background checked out to babysit or by donating some space, then that’s a very simple way you can have a huge impact.

Do you have desktop publishing skills/would you want to write up a newsletter?

If you said yes, then you might be volunteering to do most of the battle of a foster care worker (as my supervisor says). Most of the issue with getting a community involved with the foster care system is being able to advertise well. The first thing my FC supervisor had me do when I came in was make some fliers for a training and come up with a brochure to give out at the front desk and around town. It was something simple for me to do that didn’t take more than 10 or so minutes of my time and now there’s a vehicle for people in town to have information about what’s going on at the foster care branch of DSS. A great way to get involved with foster care and then get the people in your community involved is to call your local DSS and say “Hey, do you have someone making your fliers? Could I take some of that off your hands?” or “I own a printing and copying business. I’m passionate about helping foster children, so I’d like to donate 100 free copies of your next brochure.” Anything along those lines just helps spread the word even farther and allows more people to help out.

 

Those were all of the major ways my FC supervisor told me people could help out without being foster parents. I’m sure there are plenty of other location specific ways you can help your town’s foster care workers. Simply making a phone call and sticking to a commitment can make a world of difference.

More next week!

Sadie

Hold on Boys/Girls/Friends Outside the Binary

Like I mentioned last week, I’m officially relegated to Foster-Care-Land which means the rest of my posts may have distinct foster care flavor to them. This week I went to a PRIDE foster care parent training (I would have gone to two but I had a very serious traffic problem in which I found myself on a road that just ended with no way around construction). At this training, there was a lot of discussion of how things have changed across this training and how now there should be a discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation. I thought, “Well great! I’m glad we’re talking about it! Foster parents are supposed to take in all kids regardless and they should have tools to know how to be respectful of who a child is no matter their age.”

That’s not exactly what happened.

Now, I get that these trainings have a lot to cover and it may seem more pertinent to teach someone how to handle a crisis situation where a child has experienced very serious trauma physically and mentally than to talk to potential parents about pronouns. I also get that more mental trauma can be created when when a child feels like who they are is not respected by the authorities in their lives. There are 4 online sessions that last 3 hours apiece and 5 in-person sessions that last 3 hours apiece so I think that somewhere in there could be a slightly more thorough explanation of gender and sexuality.

I’d like to provide potential foster parents with more accurate terminology than I saw in the training just to give this information a bit more of a nudge into gender studies territory.

  1. Sex and Gender are not synonyms. Sex typically refers to the biology of a person (genitals, hormones, chromosomes, etc.) and can be described using terms like male/female/intersex. Gender is the psychological element of a person or how they describe themselves and terms like woman/man/agender/genderqueer/third gender/bigender/polygender and many others can be used. You may not need to know these variations for every kid you encounter but if a kid tells you they are one gender or another, you should learn something about it.
  2. Gender and Gender Identity are synonyms. The training I went to used gender when they should have said sex and gender identity in the place of gender which isn’t really accurate. Using terms in this way suggests that a child is really one thing even though they identify as something else which can be harmful to the child and how they perceive themselves and their relationship(s) with their foster parent(s) in the long run. A child is not a boy who thinks he is a girl. A child is not even a boy who identifies as a girl. This example child is a girl who was assigned male at birth. Who a child is and who they think they are is the same thing. Remember, they probably know themselves better than anyone else could.
  3. Just because your foster child is young does not mean they don’t know. If you’ve got a kid who can form coherent sentences, then they know. The ability to understand your own gender develops around age 3. While interacting with other children, your foster child may have some sense of who they are attracted to (most likely in the context of holding hands or spending extra time with playing). Some kids don’t know until later because it just hits them later or they don’t learn the word for who they are for a long time but some kids just know and they know early. So don’t think because you’ve gotten a 4 year old girl that she won’t tell you he’s a boy. And don’t think that because you’ve got an 8 year old girl that she won’t tell you she has a crush on another girl and maybe a boy at the same time. And just because your foster kid is still in elementary school doesn’t mean they won’t come home one day and say they don’t really feel like a boy or a girl. Kids are people and they know these things about themselves.
  4. Just be respectful. If a kid is in your care, they’ve already suffered some trauma. They don’t need any more trauma caused by someone being disrespectful of their gender or sexuality, especially since you’re supposed to be taking care of them, nurturing them, and loving them. The previous trauma could be related to their guardian’s responses to their gender or sexuality so keep that in mind. Questions aren’t inherently bad, especially if you’re really trying to learn about who this child is and how you can best support them. Pointed questions that are really just ways of trying to convince them they’re wrong are bad. Don’t do that. Be better than that. Just know that this is their body, their identity, their life and they are the expert on who they are just like you are the expert on who you are. And for the love of all that is decent in the world, do not complain if the child uses a word that you don’t know. Don’t tell them how you’re going to screw up because the world is changing too fast for you and people are just making up words nowadays to feel special. What that says to a child is that who they are does not matter enough to you to be respectful to them. You would rather not change than support their understanding of themselves. Like I said, they have already sustained trauma and have been hurt and disappointed by adults, they don’t need any more of that.
  5. IT DOES NOT MATTER IF THEY CHANGE THEIR MINDS. I wish I could make that last statement flash in neon. People change all the time! They grow and learn and make decisions. Those decisions about who they are are right for them at the time. That doesn’t mean they were wrong, it just means they’ve changed. If they change their hair, it will grow back. If they stop liking their clothes, they can get new ones. If they find a word that better describes their sexuality than before, you should support them and use that word. They can go off of one kind of hormone and supplement others. And, yes, they can even go back on surgeries if that’s something they want. It has happened before. Some of these issues you may never have to encounter because of a lack of funds or insurance issues or rules from medical people about procedures on minors but know that when your foster child is willing and able to make these decisions for themselves that they know what is best for who they are.

So, I think these 5 points sum up the major things I would want foster parents to know about gender and sexual orientation that I feel weren’t really talked about in the training. My foster care supervisor at DSS wants me to talk about these points at the next training session to kind of make up for it. I think it’s important to be up to date on any sort of information that can help kids flourish and so does she, which is why she’s more than happy to have me share what I’ve learned through GSWS. We’re a more open society now, so I think we should be able to talk about gender and sexuality especially with kids. They need that kind of information so they aren’t blindly going through changes and feeling scared to ask questions. I want to be a resource for kids and I really want to let these families know how to be respectful of what kids know and who they are because it’s really that simple.

I hope this post has been helpful to someone. It’s another that means a lot to me. I’ve only got two more weeks left at the DSS so that means only two more posts.

More next week!

Busy Bees

Well this blog post kind of snuck up on me this week because of how busy everything has been at DSS. In addition to that, a popular game at DSS seems to be musical offices. My original office buddy left me a few weeks ago, I was alone for a little while, I got a new office buddy who needed the space to do interviews of some variety, and I got moved to someone else’s office where I have limited access to a computer. So, I’ll be honest and say that this has left me unprepared for a blog topic this week so I’m going to do a bit of an update about my plans for the rest of my internship and then that should lay the groundwork for the rest of the blog. Fingers crossed anyway. So here’s the basics:

  • I signed myself up for a foster parent training that will go through the rest of this month. I’ve already started the online element and my first in person session is this Saturday.
  • I learned how to laminate and I built most of a cabinet by myself.
  • I’m full time with the foster care worker now so I’ve done a lot of filing and working with receipts.
  • My first office buddy, the APS worker, asked me to compile a list of realtors and available rental properties in the county for anyone looking for housing. In addition to my trip to New Orleans where I saw far more homelessness than I expected, this has gotten me thinking about a post on housing, affordability, and homelessness.
  • We’ve had several calls about parents doing drugs with children around or having drug paraphernalia in the home. I’d say most of the CPS reports that I’ve heard about have something to do with drug use so I thought I could write something about drug use in a community like Orange County and the effect that can have on children and families.
  • One of the homes we work with that is involved in many departments of DSS had a church group come to their home and repair a ramp on the front of their house so everything could be fully accessible. Volunteers and church groups, while not a long term substitute, are invaluable for people who need help reconstructing their homes and making them safer when they can’t afford a regular contractor or maintenance person. These volunteers work directly with DSS and we greatly appreciate their time and effort.
  • Because of a series of retirements and a struggle to fill positions here, I’m thinking of writing a post about misconceptions of doing social work. I can’t think of another reason for the lack of people (other than maybe pay). There’s always a need so if someone thinks they’re interested in social work, they should do some digging.
  • Finally, I talked with both of my supervisors and I have WAY over exceeded the number of hours people usually do for an internship so I’ll be finishing up at the end of the month so that I can get a little more information on my blog before I’m done. That’s just three more posts! Where has the time gone?!?!?

This is mostly what I’ve been up to, other than what I’ve already reported on in my blogs. I’ll have more heavily researched information next week, I promise. Until then, I hope you liked the update and feel free to suggest a topic I could make a post on.

More next week!

 

Who wants to be a foster parent?

That’s not the new title of a game show but it is an honest question. I think I may want to be one in the next few years and I think anyone interested in being a foster parent should know all they can about it. I personally have gone through various mentalities about my relationship to children and, like I hopefully conveyed in my LARC post, the decision to have children should and can be a well-informed one and foster parenting seems like the definition of informed parenting. I’d like to thank Bettina Judd for being the first person to make me seriously question whether I want to have children and why, because for a while my thoughts on childbearing were “It’ll probably happen” which is not overly thoughtful. If you want thoughtful then let someone screen you in a multitude of ways to determine if you’d be good at caring for kids who really need someone. Foster parenting just seems like a great idea for someone like me, there is always a need for foster parents, and it’s a great way to serve your community.

So what would I need to do?
Well, luckily I’ve been working with foster care at DSS and I can answer that question. Recently, I helped our foster care worker make a pamphlet on becoming a foster parent and I’m registered for a training session on foster parenting. Here’s the inside of the brochure I helped make:

 

brochure

You can see some of the frequently asked questions and a fairly thorough list of what is necessary to become a foster parent. As always, if you have more questions, it’s a great idea to call your local DSS and get in touch with a foster care worker.

Who does foster care help?

That’s a pretty broad question. Technically it helps anyone involved in foster care. Foster parents help kids that are taken into care, they help parents that need time to make some corrections in order to get their kids back, and they help foster care workers by being available. I’m going to go the statistics route for this question. So in America as of 2014 there were 415,129 children in foster care. In Virginia specifically (where I am and where the DSS I where I’m working is located), there were 4,597 children in foster care. 238,230 children exited the foster care system in 2014 and 51% of them were reunited with parents or primary caretakers while 21% of them were adopted. About 46% of the children in the foster care system in 2014 were in non-relative foster family homes. The median age of the children in foster care in 2014 was around 8 years old. Approximately 42% of these children were White, roughly 24% were African American, and nearly 22% were Hispanic. Around 52% of the children were male and 48% were female. So there’s the big picture on demographics.

Well then, who needs the most help and how do I help them?

Okay that’s more specific. You can see from the brochure I attached that you can make some choices about what kids you take in (age-wise but if you applied to be a foster parent you signed a document saying you would not discriminate based on gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, or ability so keep that in mind) but there are populations that have greater needs than others. Like the brochure said, kids between 11 and 16, sibling groups, and teen moms need the most help. You might be wondering why they need more help. Well, the teen age bracket can be hard to place because of the kinds of trauma these kids have endured and their reactions to such trauma. Additionally, foster families may be more inclined to take in younger children because they have biological children of a similar age. If you think you could make a great home for a teenager in the foster care system then make that known. Placing sibling groups may be difficult in terms of space foster families may have. If you think you could have room for five (or however many) siblings then I highly suggest going for it because it is better for the children emotionally if they all stay together. And teen moms may have difficulty in placement because a family member may wish to take their child in but may not want to take them in as well. Keeping the mother and child together is beneficial in the same way keeping siblings together is beneficial in addition to allowing the teen to learn about parenting their own child. This would be a great thing to take on for any potential foster parent who thinks they would be good with any age group. Foster parents may lack space or resources for certain groups (like not having a home with access for a child who is wheelchair bound or not having enough beds for all of the siblings in a family) but having people that are willing and able to take on any one of these groups is invaluable and, as always, DSS will do everything to help you take care of these kids.

But Sadie, your brochure says that the goal of fostering children is to reunite them with parent. What if I really want to adopt?

Well, like it says, if a child cannot be returned home, then foster parents can be considered as adoptive parents. I do have an excellent resource for this question, though. Courtesy of the Director of DSS (who has shared with me her own incredible story about her relationship with foster care), I give you adoptuskids.org! She described it as the match.com of adoption sites. You can go to the tab “Meet the Children” and put in some general characteristics of kids you might be looking to adopt (mostly age and number of kids). Maybe you really want to adopt a teenager, so you’d set the bars between 13 and 19. Maybe you’d be willing to take in up to 3 kids, so you say you would take a minimum of 1 kid and a maximum of 3. Maybe you want to find the kid closer to home, you can limit your search to a few states but you can also look at kids all over the country. There are more than 5,000 children registered on the website and there are far more kids across the country looking to be adopted so if this is the right choice for you in terms of childrearing, then here you go.

I’d like to end by saying that foster parenting isn’t for everyone. It’s a decision not to be made lightly, similar to choosing to bear children. It’s a tough job, it’s a detailed process, and you may find yourself in a situation that you didn’t expect. Some kids come into foster care traumatized. Some of them have disabilities. Some of them come from backgrounds with which you have zero familiarity. They all need someone to look after them. If you’re the kind of person who could say “My desire to care for these kids is greater than any potential discomfort that could arise while they are with me” then I think you’d make a great foster parent and it could really be worth your consideration.


Foster Care Sources

https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/foster.pdf

A Post for Pride

June is Pride Month for the LGBTQIA+ community which is a cause for celebration, but this past week has been hard for this community (and several others) because of the tragedy in Orlando. I’ve had a lot to say in my personal life about what happened and in the process I came out via social media (scary but affirming so far). Additionally, my good friend Erin asked two weeks ago about services Social Services has for LGBTQIA+ people so now seems like a pretty opportune time to answer this question.

Doing some quick research on my own, I found that the Virginia Department of Social Services has a training module dedicated to preventing harassment, bullying, and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals who are seeking services related to domestic violence (this is the specific title but most of the module can be used in other instances and also makes references to creating a safe work environment for coworkers). This module includes a seven step process for addressing everyday bigotry, a section that debunks myths about serving the LGBT community, and some example scenarios for practice. Some of the language isn’t 100% inclusive, that being said, I also don’t know how old this PowerPoint is. But given how thorough this particular module is, I would be surprised by a negative response to any suggested corrections. If anyone would like to take a look at it, it can be found here.

I’ve also been working with one of the foster care workers and I discovered that the application to be a foster parent states that the applicant may not discriminate against a child based on gender identity or sexual orientation among other things. Meaning they can’t refuse to take in a child for these reasons alone or they cannot stop caring for a child for these reasons if they become aware of the child’s gender identity or sexual orientation after they have already agreed to take the child in. I know this seems like a formality and that most institutions have to include information on anti-discrimination laws but the fact that this extends to foster care makes me feel a whole lot better. LGBTQIA+ kids can end up involved with CPS because of abuse attributed to their parents’ feelings on their identity and one in four kids becomes homeless the day they come out to their parents. Knowing that the people who want to be foster parents see the anti-discrimination part of the application and think “taking care of this child is more important to me than anything else I could know about them” seems really fantastic to me. I have a lot of feelings about foster parents and I’d say 98% of them are good feelings. Thank you to any foster parent reading this.

The Department of Social Services also requires that administrators of assisted living programs take a one hour LGBT training to be certified. This is more of a state level thing so it’s not something I’ve encountered personally. The general idea though is that employees in assisted living programs should be sensitive to their clients and that clients shouldn’t have to be concerned about closeting themselves just because they’re going into a new living situation. Makes sense to me and I personally really appreciate the idea that that’s not something I would have to worry about when I get older.

This information is the most broad I could find/is what I have personally encountered. It may not be all encompassing and if I find out more then I will certainly update. Finally, I just want everyone who’s keeping up with me to know that I won’t be posting next week because I’ll be out of town. I’m going to be celebrating my birthday as well as Pride. So when I come back, I hope to bring you another great post to make up for missing a week.

More in two weeks!

orlando

Community Involvement and the Elderly

So last week I promised you another long and well researched post once I got all of my resources in. Well they arrived and I have researched so hold on to your knickers because I’m super pumped about this post.

This post has next to nothing to do with LARCs (I know, but this is a blog, not a TV series so I can get away with less continuity). There’s a very important reason I’m jumping to talking about the elderly instead of contraceptives. I share an office with an Adult Protective Services worker. We’ve spent a lot of time together in the past four weeks being in the same space and she’s also taken me out to check in on a lot of her clients. So I’ve actively seen more elements of DSS that have to do with APS than just about anything else. It’s heartbreaking to be frank. Many of these people are elderly and disabled either mentally or physically or both and are living on obscenely small amounts of money. A lot of them don’t have people to care for them and even if they do, it’s almost impossible to work full time, make a living wage, and take care of an elderly person. Sometimes caregivers are paid caregivers but there are limits on hours, the pay is not awe inspiring, and there are still times when a care giver may need to be away from the client (such as grocery shopping). So what can be done?

Good news: I know of two relatively easy ways to make life easier for the elderly and particularly the disabled elderly.

Let’s start with the most average elderly people you can envision. There are a lot of them. And the population of elderly folk will continue to grow as the Baby Boomers age. This particular population is huge. Now add in to the mix that when people age, it’s common for memory problems to develop and for people to have issues like Alzheimer’s or some variety of Dementia. Even with in home care, it is possible for these individuals to leave home and find themselves in dangerous situations because they don’t know where they are or where they’re going. Sometimes these situations are made worse by other people or businesses calling the police to bring the person with Dementia home. I know these calls are made out of concern but when you don’t know where you are or you may even be in a different time and place in your mind, it is terrifying to be picked up by the police. Sometimes those with Dementia are a part of the work force and struggle with the early stages while they’re employed or they wish to continue being independent so they need a source of income which is very difficult with Dementia. This is Part One of what we can do:

Dementia friendly community and business trainings!

I personally think this is a wonderful and fairly simple thing that people can do to help elderly folk. The Alzheimer’s Society of the UK has a comprehensive manual that employers can download here. The Alzheimer’s Society of British Columbia has specific instructions for legal professionals, financial professionals, and housing professionals. And thanks to the Wisconsin Healthy Brain Initiative there is a manual that you yourself can read and the Alzheimer’s Association of America  has a PowerPoint you can download and then march on up to your local board of supervisors or mayor (or whoever is in charge where you live), slap it on their desk, and say “This is something our community needs!” Okay, I’m pretty sure that’s not how local government works but get your neighbors on your side and go to a board meeting or do a letter campaign and you could be making a serious impact on the elderly in your community.

“But Sadie, what about the elderly who don’t have Dementia? What about those with physical disabilities or other mental disabilities who need in-home care? How can we help them?” I hear you asking through your computer. Well, I’m glad you’re still with me and thinking ahead. You’re ready to move on to Part Two:

Respite Care!

Actually, you don’t even have to call it that but that’s the name with which I’m most familiar. Long story short, I’m the president of the Wesley Foundation at good ole W&M and we’re affiliated with the Williamsburg United Methodist Church. Well WUMC has a program called Respite Care that functions as an adult daycare so that elderly people who have someone looking after them can have some respite, hence the name. This is great so that caretaker can run errands or just prevent burn out and elderly folks can socialize and get out of the house. They based their program off of the initiative adopted by the United Methodist Church Commission on Disabilities in 2000. The way things work at WUMC is that they are open from 11:45 am to 5:00 pm and they take roughly 12 people a day. The cost is $50 and they have a trained and screened Care Team to look after everyone. They also allow student volunteers to come in and help out which helps foster a larger community of giving back.

If you can’t tell, I love this idea. You don’t have to be Methodist to do this. I’m not Methodist myself. I don’t event think you need to be brand loyal to Jesus to do something like this. I think it would be great if all churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, community organizations, honestly anybody that has building space and is dedicated to helping their community would develop a program like this. Some areas already have adult daycares and that’s great if they’re affordable. Some areas (like mine) don’t have anything like it except nursing homes or assisted living and those are more expensive than I had ever imagined. The Respite Director at WUMC very kindly sent me some information about how to start a similar program and I’m going to share it all with you.

Here’s a checklist that can be modified if necessary:

Please feel free to print this off!

Here’s the list of resources that the Virginia Conference Commission on Disabilities recommends:

For caregivers specifically

General Respite resources

If you have any other questions, let me know! Comment and share and all that jazz. I’ll certainly get back to you and if you have any specific questions about Respite or adult daycare, I can ask the Respite Director and my APS coworker.

More next week!

Hurry up and wait

Last week I posted a really in depth discussion of LARCs and this week I had planned another fairly in depth post but I’m waiting on some official resources. I want it to be the best post it can be so stick with me until I can give you something big.

This week’s post is going to be an update that will hopefully lead to discussion and some ideas for future posts. I’ll give a list of some of the things I’ve done in the past few weeks and if I get a lot of feedback on one or more of them then I’ll make a longer post. I want people to read about things they’re curious about not just a journal of my work or just the things I find cool.

Things I have done:

  • Made calls to shelters to find placement for a domestic violence victim and her daughters. Simultaneously discovered that finding a shelter with space between Fauquier and Richmond is nearly impossible.
  • Went with my supervisor (who works in Child Protective Services) on a visit to a child who is struggling to stay in school
  • Went on several visits with my office buddy (who works in Adult Protective Services) to check on her clients. Many of these trips were to make sure they had someone to take care of them if they were disabled, to see if they were able to pay bills (for many reasons), or to see if reports of elder financial exploitation were valid.
  • Attended a seminar led by Charlie Appelstein based on his strength-based practices directed at working with traumatized children. His work is amazing and I think we could drastically change schools and parent-child relationships everywhere if we used the tools he provides. Read his book “No Such Thing as a Bad Child” or check out his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CharlieTraining/
  • Sat in on many meetings. Most of those were about reports the DSS had gotten about families but one was an abbreviated FPA (Family Partnership Assessment) and one was to confirm the details of some cases with the DSS attorney.
  • Went on a few trips with another CPS worker who needed to remove children from homes. I just want to add that there are always a few warning to the parents who have issues that take time to correct (usually related to cleaning or getting an exterminator) so we don’t just pick up children on the first call. If a child is in extreme danger or has been left alone and cannot take care of themselves (such as a very young child or a child with certain disabilities) then more immediate action may be pursued.
  • Picked up some donated walkers and cleaned out an old company car
  • Went to court to watch the proceedings of some of my supervisor’s cases
  • Learned that the DSS building has bi-annual crises related to heating and cooling and that it is nearly impossible to plan a professional outfit that will keep you cool but is also suitable for some of the living conditions I may walk into (I.e. wear close toed shoes at all times and clothes that are easy to wash).

So that’s been the job for the most part. I’m hoping some of these points raise question that I am allowed to answer. I promise that I have a great post planned for next week and I will continue to have great posts planned related to any feedback I get (on this post or otherwise).

More next week!

DSS and LARCs

Last week, I mentioned that the director of DSS stopped by to talk to me about her plans for the agency and her love for the Brookings Institute. She asked me to watch a couple of videos, all of which I will share at some point this summer but the first is linked to the book she also asked me to read and I already have some basic knowledge on the topic so we’re starting with LARCs, or Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives. Short yet informative video below.

Now, I’m just going to say this before we go too far, both Bell and I think that single parents often do a wonderful job at raising children (I’m the daughter of a single mother and I think I’m pretty great) and I can’t speak for Bell on this one but I fully believe that two or more people can get together and decide to raise a child without the institution of marriage. Bell focuses a lot on the marriage part but I think the bigger picture is that 1) with more than one person raising a child, there are more resources to go around and the child is more apt to thrive and 2) a lot of the instances of single-parenthood aren’t choices that are made but instead instances of a lack of resources. Here at the DSS, we like to let people know their options and LARCs give women in a lot of at-risk categories (young, uneducated, racial minorities, low income, or usually some mixture) more chances to choose. Another important factor in getting access to any kind of birth control is being able to afford it. The DSS provides applications for Medicaid to clients who may qualify and fortunately for people on Medicaid LARCs (and actually birth control in general) is covered so that there is no out of pocket cost.

So lets get a LARC lowdown.

ParaGard/Copper IUD

Pros

  • Hormone free which means it won’t mess with the hormones you already have and that it functions by thickening the cervical mucus in order to block sperm.
  • Can last 10-12 years (!!!)
  • Is more than 99% effective (comparable to male/female sterilization)
  • You can have sex immediately after placement (no waiting like with the pill)
  • Can be used while breastfeeding
  • Ability to become pregnant returns quickly after removal

Cons

  • While the procedure for placing the IUD may be quick, it is not painless. In order to place the IUD, your doctor has to open your cervix. I know many people who have IUDs and while they often say it’s the best choice they’ve ever made, they also say it’s one of the most painful things they’ve ever gone through. From what I’ve heard and read, reports of the procedure being painful mostly come from women who have never given birth and that women who have don’t think it’s that bad. So take that as you will.
  • Heavier and longer periods are common (although that should end within 2-3 months) and I have heard a lot of personal stories about very painful cramping.

Mirena/Hormonal IUD

Pros

  • Can last anywhere from 5 to 12 years depending on the brand
  • Functions by preventing the egg from leaving the ovary and thickens cervical mucus to block sperm (two things are happening at once which personally just makes me feel better)
  • Also 99.9% effective
  • May reduce period cramps and on average menstrual flow is reduced my 90% (some women stop having a period all together)
  • Can be used during breast feeding but because this one is hormonal women should wait 4 weeks after giving birth to get this kind of IUD
  • Ability to become pregnant returns quickly
  • You can begin to have sex immediately after the IUD is placed if it is inserted within 7 days of the start of your period

Cons

  • Just like the copper IUD, the insertion of the IUD can be very uncomfortable. I hear it’s worth it but if you don’t have a high pain tolerance, you should know in advance.
  • 3-6 months of irregular periods

Nexplanon/Implant

Pros

  • Lasts 3 years
  • Relatively easy insertion. Basically, a doctor takes the implant that’s about the size of a matchstick and inserts it into the underside of your arm. Most women I’ve spoken to say that it’s only as painful as a shot.
  • Functions by releasing progestin (a hormone you already produce naturally) which keeps the egg from leaving the ovary and thickens cervical mucus. Like I said earlier, I just like knowing that more than one action is taking place. It feels like a fail safe.
  • 99.9% effective (I’m loving the odds of the LARCs)
  • Can have fewer, lighter periods after 6-12 months and 1 in 3 women will stop having periods entirely
  • You can begin having sex immediately if the implant is placed within the first 5 days of your period
  • Can be used while breastfeeding
  • Can become pregnant quickly after removal

Cons

  • Can interact negatively with medications
  • Irregular bleeding in the first 6-12 months and some women report heavier, longer periods

So those are the big things about LARCs I thought everyone would want to know. Just as a reminder I AM NOT A DOCTOR. Always consult with your doctor to make sure any form of birth control is right for you. If you choose any LARC from the list above and experience prolonged, negative symptoms, speak with a doctor immediately. I want everyone to be happy with the choices they are making about their bodies and futures, which means being safe. If you aren’t on Medicaid but are thinking of getting a LARC, call your insurance company to check.

I hope this was helpful in some way. If anyone has any questions, just leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer. More next week!


Sources:

plannedparenthood.org

mirena-us.com

paragard.com

nexplanon.com

I’ve also used personal stories from friends and family. Most of the time people you have relationships with care about you and aren’t invested in selling you something so I think it helps to hear from real people.

First week on the job

I’ve just finished my first week with DSS and I think I’m settling in pretty well. The office is a little hectic but understandably so. If I’ve learned anything this week it’s that this job is all hands on deck. One of my supervisors told me that, while there are roughly thirty people in the department, only two of those people are actually caseworkers. Around this time last year, there were approximately enough cases for each worker to have a full caseload (which is around 15 cases) and right now they have almost double that number of cases. So I know if I’m feeling overwhelmed at any point, I’m in good company.

I spoke with my supervisors a few times about what I wanted to be doing at DSS and, while I want to use this experience to create a resource (this blog) for others who may be involved with DSS, who may want a career in social work, or who are interested in what they can do to affect policy change, I am also very much trying to get an idea of what I want to do with my degrees once I graduate. So, my answer to “What do you want to do here?” is always “Anything I’m allowed to do here.”

It turns out that’s the best answer I can give because sometimes the work that a typical intern would do, like filing or shredding or anything that might put me in contact with very personal information of clients, is very much off limits for me because this is a government job and I signed a confidentiality agreement and DSS promised the government that unpaid employees would not have access to those records. That makes my confidentiality agreement a lot easier to fulfill anyway.

What I can look forward to this summer is going out when anyone has to pick up kids or assess a living situation (I’ve already gone to pick up an abandoned baby this week), sitting in on meetings to assess family needs or how much money can be allocated to foster parents, reading manuals on policy, and writing grants for the director. She’s provided me with some reading material and has shared her love of the Brookings Institute with me which has given me some amazing ideas for future blog posts. There should be some excellent videos in the future as well as a review of the books she wants me to read and how they’re being used to direct DSS. I’m incredibly thankful that the director and I appear to be coming from the same place in terms of helping people here in town and I’m looking forward to the rest of my time here.

More next week!