My Work in Child Welfare for MHA-NYC
Working in the field of child welfare, whether it is preventive, foster care, or child protection is a choice and it is not for everyone. There are probably some days, sometimes where we might think it is not even for us. The choice to go out into the field, into people’s homes (sometimes invited, sometimes not so welcome), is a decision we make. A decision that we all have made because we know and understand the vital importance of our work. We have a commitment to keeping kids safe and to working with families to increase their internal strengths and to ensure that children have a safe place they call home. We know that to do this, we work with many, many systems that often feel confusing and challenging to families and sometimes seem to us as well.
Even in the face of these challenges, we continue to advocate on behalf of children and families. Sometimes this means taking a parent to 5 or 6 different drug treatment programs before finding one that will work with her. Sometimes this means waiting until 9 at night for a family at a shelter in another borough that they just moved to in order to make sure you have seen them. Sometimes this means going to a family’s home at 2 in the morning to assess the safety of the children and see if they can remain in their home or if they need to be removed.
Every day is different, just like every family is different. This work keeps us (and requires us to be) adaptable, creative, flexible, patient, and compassionate. It is easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of this work and that is why taking a moment, whether it is today or tomorrow, with your family or friends, at work, or alone, to recognize the remarkable work that you do is so important.
I’ll finish up this blog with a story about families that recently finished services with us. A mother came by the office the other day with her two daughters for her graduation from our program. The workers had talked with her about this before, but it still had not sunk in that she would not be working with us anymore. She started to cry and the workers reassured her that we were closing her case because she and her family were doing well. We had recently received a donation of three tickets to go to the Bronx Zoo and provided these to her, so she could take her daughters. The mother was very happy and planned to go the next day with them. The tickets we received were actually from another client who also recently closed with us. She started working at the Bronx Zoo and wanted to donate tickets to another family because she found our program helpful and wanted to give back. Moments like these with these 2 families can be what sustains us during the challenging moments. I encourage every person who works in our field to remember your own moments with clients to remind us why we do this work.
During this Mental Health Month, I want to send a big thank you to everyone who helps support children in danger wherever they may be. And a very special shout out goes to my team in the Bronx who work with me every day at MHA. Only by working together do we make such huge progress possible.
Elizabeth Rogers is the Director of MHA-NYC’S Family Link Program and was recently awarded a Bronx Cares Award.