This year I will be interning in a county child protection setting. I had my first “real” day in the field on Monday where I met my supervisor at court for an “Admit/Deny” hearing where a family could either admit or deny fault for alleged abuse. The two year old child had been removed from her home because police had found her with her dad who had passed out from a drug overdose and the child showed signs of neglect. The allegations were denied so the case will be revisited in about a month.
After court, my county supervisor and I went to pick up the child from her foster home for a supervised visit with the family. When it came time to leave, the two year old child was inconsolable— she did not understand why she couldn’t go home with her parents. Of course, my heart dropped and I wanted to scoop this little girl up and tell her it was all going to be ok but, boundaries. What I did do was kneel down next to her and told her that just for now, we are going back to her foster home and she will see her parents soon. We were able to get back the car but once in the seat, she cried the whole thirty minute car ride while grasping onto the necklace her dad had given her. Once home, the foster mom retrieved the little girl from the car seat and embraced her in a way that we simply couldn’t. I had a long discussion with my supervisor afterwards about appropriate boundaries and how to navigate a professional role in the face of human pain. The young girl was truly upset and I didn’t know how I could comfort her, if it was my position to do so, and what could I possibly say to a child that just wants to go home?
I left the situation thinking ‘how much of today will this child remember?’ And, if she doesn’t remember the events, will she remember the feelings associated with today? This is all too soon to tell, of course, but I wonder about the gravity this day had on her life. I think the reality is that I will never know the answer to these questions so I have to allow myself the grace to do the best I can with what I know and when I know better, do better (thank you~Maya Angelou). I also remind myself that while this one day was more difficult than I could imagine, this young person holds within them sources of immense strength and resilience.