At 5 pm yesterday Ana and I and six other couples walked out of a government building, the institutional kind reeking of a we-have-no-budget-for-that kind of frugalism. The kind of place that immaculately dressed politicians and their clambering entourages never set foot in, yet the building, and the work people do there have a direct and dramatic impact on our country’s future. That building and the souls that make it breathe bear a tremendous responsibility that, if we understood it better, we would never allow it to be managed on a shoe-string budget.
It’s one of the buildings in Las Vegas allocated to Child Protective Services. They are the unsung heroes in unthreatening clothing that drive economical government cars around our communities quietly going about the business of tidying up the messes created daily that we really don’t want to hear about. There are a lot of these people, and every last one is dramatically over-burdened with cases.
Cases is a de-humanized word that translates into lives. Lives of children that didn’t ask to be born and didn’t deserve the tragedy, pain, and horrors inflicted on them and that they are exposed to. Those tragedies are born from countless circumstances like sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and a host of other horrible situations and injustices. These are kids with no safe place to go and no one to care for them. That’s what a case is.
Cases are complex and busy. It’s about the children but includes their siblings, parents and friends and extended families, the counselors, lawyers, doctors, the courts, schools, and other resources and sometimes law enforcement. They are always stressful to manage because they are heart-wrenching, and tragic. Each worker has a heavy case load, too heavy. Compassionate burnout is high among CPS workers because of the workload while the unrelenting inflow of new cases wth more and more lives and families torn apart and in immediate need continues to swell.
They need help. The kids need help.
When we walked out of that building yesterday we were holding certificates of completion, our ten week course was over. Soon we will all be licensed by the State of Nevada to foster or adopt. That certificate means a great deal to us; it was earned with hard work, intense study, honest introspection and humbling self-improvement. It carries a tremendous weight of responsibility that we are honored to have, and we respect it greatly. I know the other six couples feel the same way we do. It was one of the hardest processes we have ever been through, and the most gratifying.
They are going to give us children to care for. We need to be the right people with the right tools to do that job well and earn that child’s trust. If we do, they may allow themselves to accept the things we often take for granted. Like nurturing, guidance, caring and love. Trust is not easy for these children, they have been through things most of us can’t imagine.
The two workers that taught our class presented our certificates. Over the past ten weeks, they crawled up inside of our lives with a microscope, pulled out both the good, and the ugly. Then they helped us paint an objective picture of ourselves. That picture included our strengths and our needs. They helped us learn how to grow and make ourselves better. They gave us the tools to understand, identify and help children work through their problems. They set the bar very high. It needs to be very high.
These two women went beyond teaching us, they cared for us. Not the government mandated kind of caring. This was the real kind that only very special people have inside. Like loving yet firm mothers, they pushed us, challenged us, understood us and nurtured us. They taught us to understand others and see the perspectives around us so we can better manage the situations we will face. They drew us close and became our advocates, they pulled us together as a team, all the while encouraging our strength, confidence, and independence.
Their example was every bit as effective at teaching us what do to as the course, perhaps even more so.
There is some paperwork now, and some formalities to tend to, and when that is done, we will get a phone call telling us we are officially licensed foster parents and an adoptive resource. Seconds later, we are told, we can expect phone calls about kids in desperate need of a foster home. Because of the two outstanding women that taught our course, and the six other families that will continue to share the road with us supporting each other, we are ready.