Saturday, December 12, 2009

Next semester...

How fun!I may get to lead a baby interaction play group with our adoptive parents and their new babies! I need to look through this really interesting book on how to stimulate your baby and help develop their motor and sensory skills, and pull out some exercises. We may do it around Valentine's Day and name the class something like "How to love your baby." We also might invite some teenage mothers from our Mentoring program, which I am so excited about. Pregnant Teens/Teenage mothers are a population I would like to work with. I would actually like to work in preventing that to happen (I love prevention programming, but not sure how well it works or how much it's supported) but working with the young girls to enrich their lives and give them a better outlook is just as good.

I'm rambling now. Just did a major scrub down on my condo. I even cleaned the baseboards! It really needed it since I only cleaned surfaces during this last hellish semester. However, I did get my A in Practice w/ Individuals and my Satisfactory mark for Field! Woot!

NOW - it is time to enjoy my month off. Hubsand I are outta here next Friday for vacation and family time.
Yay for Family, Friends, cold weather, traveling, good food and lots 'o fun!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

International Human Rights Day

I wouldn't be me if I didn't post about International Human Rights Day, which is December 10. Human Rights Day marks the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted on December 10, 1948, that set down the basic principles at the very heart of the human rights movement. The UDHR has enabled remarkable progress in human rights, inspiring international human rights standards, laws and institutions that have improved the lives of many around the world.

All humans deserve a life free of torture, violence, rape, murder, injustice, oppression. Wouldn't you agree?

A current issue that strikes me as imperative is the "conflict minerals" that are being used to make cheap cell phones. Many of these minerals come from war-torn regions, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and FUND the exploitation, torture, murder and rape of women and children. John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, and one of my personal heroes, posted his thoughts on the matter. This situation is just like Blood Diamonds. Boo on Blood Diamonds too.

More information on conflict minerals. Of course, the Enough Project, has an entire website dedicated to the Raise Hope in Congo effort. And John Prendergast even explains the conflict materials for us.

All it takes is a bit of smart consumerism on your part, and maybe a
short email or 2. Who will you tell?

And to tie it in to Social Work - here ya go!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


My field instructor had to fill out my evaluation for the first half of my internship. For the most part, she chose "At Expected Level" for the area questioned. I did get a few "Above Expected Level" - which is always nice.

  • Uses field educator for direction, supervision and education. Most definitely - that is what she is there for (and she does a great job, might I add!).

  • Discusses strengths and weaknesses with field educator. I really accept professional feedback with open arms. That is how you learn!

  • Acts professional and responsible, is punctual and dresses appropriately. I worked in corporate America for years, so my professionalism is definitely present.

  • Shares in collegial work responsibilities, including meeting deadlines and accepting assignments. :)

  • Identifies the purpose and use of agency records and forms and completes written material on a timely basis.
This was her handwritten note for: Discuss student's performance, strengths and areas for improvement:
Student is doing very well in her internship. She is a team player who has adjusted well to the entire adoption unit and has been welcomed by all. Other staff take the opportunity to provide Student with additional experiences and learning opportunities. Student is motivate to learn. She displays an appropriate/professional demeanor at all times, whether at the office, at court, during visits or other activities and events. Sudent is responsible and punctual. She is inquisitive and outspoken. Student is at the expected level of performance for this stage in her internship and this field supervisor believes that she will continue to grow as a social worker in this internship, and in her social work career.

See! I'm learning something!
:) :) :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Finals are a' comin.

Well, I guess I should say Final because I only have one. 73 questions, mind you. It shouldn't be that bad: I'm taking a break from making my study guide now, and I am meeting with my cohort this Saturday for a study session. These are VERY helpful.

This Saturday is also a party at my internship for the adoptive families and foster children. I was going to teach dances, but some logistical issues have prevented that from happening, so I will be helping with a Cranium-type game. Should be loads of fun for the kiddies.

Tomorrow, I will be presenting my internship agency to a Women's Clinic, along with my supervisor. She wants me to talk about the History of the organization, as well as the Safe Haven Law. I am a terrible public speaker (mainly because of my nerves!) but I've done it before and lived, so I just need to deal. It is part of being a professional.

Other than that, I'm too busy to write lately. 2 weeks left and I will be FREE for a month. Well, at least from school/internship. I am leaving my Graduate Assistantship, as well, which really sucks (I've made some close friends there and they pay my tuition!) but it must be done. I am not a robot/super hero and need a BREAK! Working 3 part-time jobs plus school is a bit much. I also want to put more into my internship next semester. And, I plan to start full-time next school year so I can finish in 3 years instead of . I've never, ever gone to college full-time and I'm a bit freaked out. :/

I will still have my at-home job, for as long as they need me. Hopefully that doesn't go away too soon. It will not be a pretty day in this household when we're both not working. We already struggle. I'm trying to figure out how to SAVE some flippin money when we go grocery shopping. We go to a farmer's market for produce, which is AMAZING. We come away with loads of fresh fruits/veggies for under $20. We spend roughly $100/week on food though. Hubs and I have big appetites and we gain weight easily. Therefore, we do our best to eat fresh foods, lean meats and whole wheat products. This is way more expensive to do than just buying all the boxed crap.

Any suggestions out there in blog land? I would be a crazy-frugal-coupon-crazed-deal-seeker if I had the time!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Clinical Assessments

As you know, I'm interning in Adoptions, which is definitely a field of Social Work that I'm very interested in. Many of my Social Work classmates, as well as close friends and family, are very aware that I'm not interested in the Mental Health, Addiction, etc. side of the profession. It's not for me, and I have no interest in it. I'm way more interested in the Macro side of the profession (lobbying, advocacy, prevention programming, community organizing/building, etc), as well as working with refugees, teen mothers and obviously, children!

That being said, It has been a bit difficult for me to really see the clinical side to the work I've been doing at my internship. Surely, a clinical assessment is made during the home study process, and a clinical, therapeutic session occurs between a social worker and a birth mom, or a social worker and adoptive parents (grief and loss).

Yesterday, Supervisor and I were reviewing some evaluations I have to turn in at the end of the semester. One of them involved checking off all the areas of the Generalist Intervention Model you have experienced during the semester. I was having a hard time really checking off some of the boxes because I can't identify any one experience that falls under whatever category. Supervisor laid it out for me and gave me lots of examples. She said making the clinical connections comes with experience, esp. in a field that isn't so ingrained in clinical/therapeutic environment. Ok, cool.

I had the opportunity to observe the Disclosure meeting for the Andrews, where they received the entire history (that CHS has) on Carissa - medical, social, educational, legal, etc. Many questions were asked, lots of information was provided. Mrs. Andrews is completely optimistic about it all, which is good - optimism keeps people going. However, a realistic outlook about welcoming a child into your home who has had severe trauma over her life, in many forms, and has bounced around the system for years, is needed even more so. Mr. Andrews is the realist of the duo, and once the medical/mental health conversation began with Carissa's therapist (keep in mind, the Andrews are well aware of Carissa's past), Mr. Andrews made a comment that he really wanted Mrs. Andrews to hear all of this, again. He wants her to come down outta the clouds and step into this new relationship well grounded. Mrs. Andrews feels Carissa's past is just that - the past - and that is where it will stay. She is focused on creating a new life for her, which is fantastic, but you obviously cannot discount her past. Her past is what made her the young lady she is today and you just can't throw it out the window. Whatever the case is with the Andrews, I know they won't give up on Carissa as others have. They have already put so much into learning about her, well before the selection staffing. They obviously feel a strong bond with Carissa, and I think she really hit the jackpot with the Andrews.

I told Supervisor about my experience in the meeting and my thoughts on the Andrews and Carissa. Once I was finished, she said "You just made a clinical assessment." Woot!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wow. I have so much to update...

This post may be long. I really need to take the time to write more often. :/

My internship is going to be over for the semester in 4 weeks! I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed working at my internship, and I can't rave enough about my awesome field instructor. I couldn't ask for a better relationship between the two of us. We have similar personalities and views, so we get along fantastic. My field professor came to meet with us and we both sang each other's praises. It was a proud moment. :)

Last week was crazy busy. One day, we had 3 home visits and one finalization at court. Another day, I attended a selection staffing, had the meeting w/ my field professor and attended a Life Books event with foster children. Insane!

We met a young couple who I shall call James and Eliana. They've have had no success in conceiving naturally (3 years of trying), so they've turned to adoption. You could definitely see that there is still a small tinge of sadness in Eliana, but she is also a very strong-willed woman and knows this is the best path for her and James. They live in a cute little bungalow with a sweet dog. They both have successful jobs and seem to know how to work out their lives when there is a new baby in it. It was the first meeting with them. Next, we meet with each of them one on one. This will be my first stab at writing a home study! Woot! I'm excited for this couple. They remind me a lot of hubs and myself. :)

We also met with another family who adopted a Safe Haven baby. This was the 2nd of 3 post-placement visits, and I will also be writing the final home investigation. Baby Mercedes is doing great! She is growing and eating her way through life! That lil teeny tiny baby ate 7 oz of food while we were there! When we arrived, Mercedes was halfway through a 5 oz bottle. Once she was finished, she got a lil fussy. Mama gave her a pacifier to see if that would soothe her. I don't think I've ever seen a child suck on a pacifier the way Mercedes did! You could definitely see that she was expecting to get something out of it. After a minute or so, she realized that thing wasn't producing any milk and she let us know she wasn't pleased with our trickery! So, mama fixed her 2 more oz and she gulped them down! It was kinda humorous.

We attended an adoption finalization at the courthouse for the Daniels family. I had not yet met this family because they went through the entire process before I started interning. Baby Addison has had some developmental delays, and they once thought she had fetal alcohol syndrome, but I believe that has been cleared. She is breathtakingly adorable though, and she is going to be one beautiful young lady! Mama Daniels is a beautiful woman, probably in her mid-forties. Papa Daniels is definitely older, maybe in his 60s. No big deal, to me, but I bring it up because a lot of people do question the age cutoff for adoption. I am not sure there is a definite line. I believe it is up to the social worker to figure out if the family is able to provide for that child for the next 20 or so years. These people aren't slowing down anytime soon. They are very lively and mobile.

The finalization was quick, as always, and later on that day, we actually went to their house for a final goodbye and good luck. (However, they are actually going to be starting the process again in January for a 2nd baby!) Mama stays-at-home and papa does some sort of financial job. He makes great money, as evidenced by their home. Mama is a crafty lady and showed me her craft room. She makes shoes, handbags, clothing, carpentry, upholsters furniture, draws/paints, etc. She is very handy, much more so than her hubby. :) She grew up on a farm - I think that has a lot to do with it. She painted Addison's room and made a lot of the furniture. I was amazed at the beauty of this room. It is every little girl's dream, and Addison will no doubt love it up into her early teens, for sure. Mama Daniels was SO nice. We sat and talked of all kinds of things, and she was so warm and sincere. She definitely disrupts the "snobby" stereotype for the rich women of this town. LOL! They also have a small dog who I just fell in love with - and I don't often like small dogs! So cute and very smart. He let me hold him like a baby and walk around the house with him. :)

On a separate day, I attended a Selection Staffing, which is where the adoption specialist, dependency case manager, therapist, and other important decision makers in the adoption field, come together and decide on the BEST family for a child. Well, it just so happens that there was only one family to present for a young girl I will call Carissa. Carissa is 12 years old and has been in the system for quite some time. She presents with a myriad of developmental and emotional problems, and has definitely been in trouble because of them. However, Carissa was picked to attend the 10-week Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting seminar that all foster parents have to go through. During that 10-weeks, Carissa fell in love with the Andrews, and they in turn adore her to pieces. The Andrews even took it further to speak with her therapist, psychologist and others to really get an understanding about Carissa. They have shown sincere interest in providing a healthy, stable life for this young lady. Carissa has spoken out for her adoration for the couple many times, which is why this family was presented. I am not surprised at all by the outcome of the meeting, which of course, was positive because the match was made! This isn't a typical selection staffing though. Usually 3 - 4 families are presented and much deliberation is needed. This was a special one though. YAY!

After the meeting, we called the Andrews to let them know. They were ecstatic!!! We can not tell Carissa until the Andrews go through disclosure though, so she does not yet know. Now - here is the cool part of the story. Later that day, we had a Life Books event for some of the foster children and we invited 3 or 4 prospective adoptive parents to attend and mingle with the children. Life Books are a very important resource for the child, as it is a reminder of where they've come from, and where they are headed. Well, Carissa and the Andrews attended and they sat together the entire time and worked on Carissa's life book. I was beaming on the inside. It was so awesome to know that these 2 wonderful people are her new family and she doesn't even know it yet! This was my first time seeing the 3 of them together, and I definitely agree that the match is perfect. Carissa hit the jackpot!

Friday, November 6, 2009


Today I got to sit in on the Adoption Team Unit Meeting, which was hysterical, to say the least. Those women (and their token male colleague) are a hoot! They are planning a holiday party in December for their foster children and prospective families, and I got talked into teaching the kids dances like the macarena and electric slide. LOL! :) I am also helping to plan the crafts, which will be lotsa fun.

Next Monday, I will be going on 3 home visits and one finalization! Then on Friday, I will finally be able to see selection staffings!! This is when everybody (case managers, adoption specialists, guardian ad litem, foster parent, etc) gets together to select the best family for a child. This is on my learning plan so I am glad that I will be able to see how involved the match process it. I will also be attending a Life Book event in the afternoon with some of the foster kids. You can read all about life books here - I'm too hungry to explain.

Then, Nov. 20 is NATIONAL ADOPTION DAY, and we have a big event going on at the County Courthouse. Lots of foster care adoption finalizations that day. WOOHOO!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bridges out of Poverty

Today I attended a training titled Bridges out of Poverty. The training was developed by Ruby Payne and colleagues at aha! process, inc. The piece of poverty that this training focuses on is the economic piece, which is certainly a big part but doesn't cover everything. The economic status of someone is only one thread of their quilt, ya know? There are many other threads that make up that quilt - age, marital status, sexual orientation, location, gender, religion, race, etc.

We talked mainly about generational poverty, which is when poverty exists in a family from generation to generation. Situational poverty, which we are definitely seeing a lot more of today, is when a situation - death, divorce, unemployment, depression, drugs, disability, etc - put you in poverty.

We talked about the mental model of poverty. A mental model is your perception, how you view something. As we know, everyone sees things differently. We might look at someone and think they are poor, but in reality they may be quite happy with their situation. Hell, you might view a couple who looks rich and think they have it made, when in fact they might be the most unhappiest people in the room. Don't judge a book by the cover. Plain and simple.

To check how our perceptions were different, we took the words Love, Religion, Celebration and Divorce and drew a picture representation. We all had different pictures. For divorce, someone drew a broken heart, and someone else drew a smiley face! This was a prime example at how we all view things differently, and if you are not on the same page with your client, you will be completely useless to them. There was an example of a social worker who had a poor family of 5 on her caseload. They didn't have a refrigerator - they used Styrofoam coolers. So, without telling the family, the social worker set up a fund raiser so she could buy them a fridge. And she did just that. A week after delivering this gracious gift to them, she called to check in and couldn't reach them. A month went by before she heard from the family, and when she asked where they had been, they told her they went to visit their sick mother/grandmother. The social worker asked them how the heck they were able to afford that (in another state, had crappy car, etc). Can you guess what their answer was? They sold the fridge! The social worker was completely shocked at their response and asked why they did that. They simply said that visiting this sick relative was far more important than a fridge could ever be. So, the social worker should have asked this family what was important to them and what they needed, because what the social worker thought they needed was not something the family thought they needed.

So to get on the same page about poverty, we looked at the mental model. Guess what's at the center of the Mental Model for Poverty? RELATIONSHIPS. Social workers know the importance of relationships, as it is part of our Social Work values. It is no surprise that people are social animals and need to have relationships with others to feel secure, have support/resources, etc. Trusting relationships are the key to motivating someone to change. Building trust with your client can possibly be one of the hardest things you have to do with them, but once that trust is solid, the helping relationship will blossom and you will be able to effectively assist your client in the change process.

I learned an interesting tidbit. People in generational poverty do not have a future orientation. They live in the here and now. All their priorities are right now. Whatever is needed at that moment. This is very different from how the middle class views life - we are very future oriented! We save money, when we can, and think about our futures - education, family, retirement, etc. The generational poor don't go there - what is the point?

This brings me to a very interesting argument. If a mother of 3 is eligible for Medicaid, WIC, Food Stamps, etc., but loses it all if she gets a $6/hr job (which won't pay for squat) - what the heck is her motivation to work? What is the point of stressing herself out over a bullshit job, wondering if she is going to get fired for missing work every time one her children gets sick, feeling completely exhausted at the end of the day and then having to care for the children. The list goes on. YES - a lot of us work, and work hard, and then come home to work for our families, but I think those who are reading this blog are living comfortably from their efforts, and while we all certainly have stress - it is usually not at the level of the poor.

"The need to act overwhelms any willingness people have to learn." If someone is always stressed out and having to constantly worry about the NOW - what will my children eat for breakfast, how will they get to school, how will I get to work, what if I miss my bus connection and I'm late and get fired, what if something happens to my children when they are home alone - they are never going to be able to take the time to reflect and learn. Never. Can you imagine feeling like that 247? I moan and complain when I have one night of insomnia due to an upcoming test or big event. I can't imagine constantly having those dreadful feelings in my head.

Wanna know what is at the center of the Mental Model for Middle Class? ACHIEVEMENT. Surprised? I wasn't. Guess what's at the center for the Wealthy? CONNECTIONS. Again - not surprised. The middle class has future orientation, CHOICES and power. This does not exist for those in poverty. The Mental Model of Generational Poverty describes life from a Concrete Perspective. These people tell it like it is. There are no abstract thoughts - thinking of going to college, thinking of becoming successful - there is only concrete thinking. Tell it like it is. What you see is what you get.

Anyway - there is so much more to say but I'm hungry! What I really took away from this training was pretty much what I've already been taught in my social work classes: Start where the client is. If you get on the same page with them, and see their story through their eyes, your helping relationship is bound to be effective in some way. If you think the client needs X, Y and Z services, but all they want from you is a clean pair of socks - then that is what you give them.

And to end this post - check out this documentary called The End of Poverty?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"I brought children into this dark world because it needed the light that only a child can bring." ~Liz Armbruste

Yesterday, I had the most enjoyable experience at my internship. I finally got to meet a family that adopted internationally. This family, who I will call the Jones, adopted a sibling group of 3 from Ethiopia. Before I met the family, I was able to watch a documentary that they were in regarding adopting from another country. It was so beautiful to see this family (The Jones and 2 of their adult bio sons) meet their new children/siblings. (Mr. Jones actually made the trip prior to this and had already met the children.) The Jones went through a reputable agency and even met Birth mom (B.M.) when they went to the country to pick up their children. She is very ill and can no longer care for them. B.M. was featured in the documentary and let me tell you, I was amazed at the strength of this woman. She was so composed and strong. However, a smile never crossed her face, and her eyes showed the depth of her pain. Supervir was crying and I had a few tears drip down my face. That type of thing is never easy to witness, no matter what situation the B.M. is in. B.M. and Mrs. Jones hugged one another and it was the most powerful thing to watch. B.M. is ever grateful that her children are being cared for and will likely live to old age, but it was the epitome of a bitter-sweet moment, if that even describes it at all. :(

Now, on to the FUN PART! I got to meet the children! I shall call them Amare (boy), age 3; Desta (girl), age 5; and big brother Bekele, age 6. The Jones kept their ethnic names (which are REALLY cool/cute, I wish I could tell you) and gave them American middle names. They were obviously already used to their names so changing them would have made the transition more difficult. However, I must first say that I was AMAZED at how quickly these children have transitioned into their new life. They've only been here 3 months and I would never be able to tell that they weren't born here. They only thing that gives it away is their cute little accent. :)

Bekele is only 6 but he was practically the parent of his 2 siblings since he was 4. He had to feed and bathe them as their mother could not. Needless to say, this young man is a leader in ever since of the word. The Jones described his transition from a parental figure to a sibling as wondrous. To see him roll around on the floor with little Amare was quite surprising (especially to Amare!) because these things did not happen back in Ethiopia. He had a sort of emotional breakdown at some point and they let him cry, so he knows it is ok to cry. I assume he had to keep all of these emotions inside in Ethiopia. Bekele is in first grade, is very outgoing, talks really fast (his English is great but if he gets going, he starts to blur it with Amharic, his native tongue), and loves soccer. :)

Desta is SO CUTE! She barely said 2 words but she is such a pretty little thing. (She and Amare look so much a like, and a lot like B.M. but I think Bekele looks very different from them.) Desta has adjusted well but she is still very sensitive to her parents leaving. When were done with the visit, the Jones walked us to the door and Desta said "Mommy, no go!" and ran to her and threw her arms around her legs. It was very touching and shows the trauma these children have experienced in their life. Mrs. Jones said she had a meltdown at the dinner table one night when she would not eat her vegetables. Typical toddler. She was also given a princess dress (Cinderella, of course) which she wore to a princess birthday party. Well, her birthday just passed and she got up that morning and immediately put on her princess dress. I think she associates birthdays with having to wear that dress. Too cute. She goes to Pre-K 4 mornings a week.

Amare is the youngest and so adorable! He has picked up the language the fastest, since he is the youngest. He seems very good natured and easy going, and they said he doesn't have tantrums (yet). He's social and has a great sense of humor. He didn't say much while we were there but he did show me his wonderful smile many times.

The Jones family were given MANY things - children's clothes, toys, money - by their church and community. When the children first sat down with these toys, they looked at them like "what the heck am I supposed to do with this?" They didn't have toys in Ethiopia. You know what they wanted to play with? The rocks and dirt in the backyard. That was familiar to them and they had a blast. The Jones say the children are very industrious and hardworking. The like to be productive, probably because they are used to it. Bekele likes to help Mr. Jones bag up leaves in the yard. Amare cleaned up after himself after he ate without being told.

I told the Jones that I hope they don't mind if I call them in 20 years when I'm ready to adopt from Rwanda. They asked why I would wait so long, and I told them my husband and I are incurring serious debt from school, so it will definitely have to wait. I had a side conversation with Mrs. Jones about my anti-genocide advocacy days and how I mostly want to work with refugees. That got us discussing the Lost Boys of Sudan and Human Aid workers and all of the things that I can only dream of being a part of. However, at least I can help those who resettle here. They need it too.

All in all, it was the best field experience I've had thus far, and I am very happy for this family. Those kids are very, very lucky to have this new life. They will not forget where they came from though, and have pictures of their B.M. and share stories about her. B.M. has pictures of them, as well, and will receive updates. Hopefully B.M. doesn't suffer for a long time, and I hope she is at peace with her decision.


The documentary also showed the dark side to adoption in a lot of countries: Human Trafficking. I was sickened to see some of the practices that these FAKE agencies do to obtain children to SELL to Americans who are completely clueless. And let me just put this out there RIGHT NOW, Christian World Adoption was shown in this video in a village, coercing parents to hand over their children. Now, I do not know anything else about this agency, other than what I witnessed on this video, but what I saw was enough. These children were FINE! Obviously, Ethiopia is not the best country in the world to live in, and the people that live here struggle in ways we can't even imagine, but these children and their families were living the typical Ethiopian life. These agencies come to these villages and persuade these people to hand over their children by telling them of the beautiful, healthy, safe lives they will live in America, never going hungry, blah blah. Ok, that IS great. I wish ALL of those people could live the way we do. The entire WORLD should be able too, but let's get realistic. The entire world can't move to the U.S., and children should remain with their families unless they are being neglected, abused, etc. These children were FINE!

Supervisor was telling me how they have discontinued international adoptions from Guatemala because women were being found dead with their stomachs cut open. PEOPLE WERE KILLING PREGNANT WOMEN WHO WERE NEAR TERM TO CUT OUT THE INFANT SO THEY COULD MAKE A PROFIT OFF THE ADOPTION OF THE BABY. Honestly, I don't think humanity can sink any lower into evil.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

"I want to provide a safe, stable home for a child that needs one."

This was a quote spoken by a prospective adoptive parent that I met yesterday, when I experienced a different piece of my internship. I went on a home visit with a worker who finds families for the older children in foster care. This is far different from the work I do with supervisor, who handles private infant and international adoptions.

The prospective mother and father have already raised some pretty solid children, and are looking to adopt one or 2. The husband wants a son, but there is a sibling duo (older sister and younger brother) that they have their eye on. They met the duo when they went through the 10-week MAPP (Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting) training, which is required of all foster parents. I do not know if it is required of all adoptive parents (I don't think it is) but some take it anyway.

Anyway, we interviewed the prospective mother for 2.5 hours! We had to explore spanking with the father a little, since it is obviously not the approach this class teaches when disciplining children, and I was very impressed with his honest answers. He seemed very genuine. We did have to reschedule with him because of the time it took just interview his wife.

After the interview, we looked around the house to ensure there were smoke alarms, fire extinguisher, enough space, etc. It was a very interesting experience, and I hope these 2 parents end up welcoming a child (or 2!) into their home.

P.S. I found it quite interesting that they actually film these older children for commercials called Thursday's Child that are aired on local news stations. It reminds me of the Humane Society commercials where they showcase a cat or dog in need of a home. Hmmm. Not sure how I feel about that...

Back to work!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Life in the Tired Lane

I do not want my field experience to be over quickly (I truly do enjoy it and wish I could much more time there) but I will not cry when this semester is over. I am running on FUMES, ppl! Mid-term is right around the corner. Oh joy!

My field supervisor wants me to create a Targeted Development Agreement for all the trainings I go to. It will be like a mini-contract between the 2 of us. It will state that to ensure transfer of learning from each training, I will apply them in practice. I will state a personal objective for attending each session, skill development commitments and we will both sign it. :)

I am saddened by a certain experience I had yesterday. A birth mom was in the hospital with her newborn and was thinking about adoption. Superviso and I went to the hospital, along with her mother (whom I will refer to as grandmother). BM is young and doesn't make much money. BF is away in college, and although he expressed interest in keeping the child, he does not have any means to raise a child either. I was not welcome into the hospital room, so I remained outside and observed the grandmother and grandchild in the neo-natal room. (Grandmother is in love, no doubt!) The child is biracial and therefore, the grandfather will not welcome the child into his home. (OPINION: If I was that grandmother, I'd tell that man to hit the friggin' road, Jack!)

This struck a deep chord with me. My family has dealt with serious racial B.S. 15 years ago, my family ripped itself apart because my then-17 year old cousin got pregnant by an African-American. It is NO surprise that my mother's father was a racist SOB, and it did trickle down to some of his children. My uncle went off the deep end over the news and it caused a serious rift in my family. We have not been the same since.

Now, my cousin has since had 3 more bi-racial children - all of whom are absolutely gorgeous. I am not close with them, as I was not close with my cousin. This does sadden me, as I think of them often, but I am not surprised that is the way things are. There are no hard feelings between us and I am very proud of the shit she has overcome. She must have skin made of steel.

On to my point of the story: I am not judging this grandfather for his reasoning, but I don't have to like it. I personally can't understand how you could shun a child, a new life who had no control over their conception. It really is difficult for me to fathom. Of course, a lot of ppl do not agree with the mixing of "ethnic groups" but honestly, I don't see why it should matter. We are all human. And frankly, multi-racial/ethnic people are BEAUTIFUL!

This is my opinion. And, as I stated, I am not judging anyone for their views.

More work to do. Ciao!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My First Post-Placement Home Visit

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to a post-placement home visit with my supervisor. After a family brings a child home, the agency has to do monthly post-placement visit for 90 days. These visits are to ensure that the child is thriving, developmentally on task, the parents are adjusting to routines, etc. This couple adopted an infant. She is almost 2 months old and just beautiful! Supervisor held the baby but since I just met the couple, I did not feel comfortable asking them to hold her. People can be weird about that, ya know? The visit went smoothly. The baby is growing, eating, and is developmentally on task. The parents are adjusting well and seem very grounded. It was a happy moment!

This morning, I will be meeting my sup. at the local hospital for an intake. She sent me an email about it, so I'm not really sure what that entails. I assume it is an intake of a birth mom?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cross-Cultural Casework

I'm reading this Cross-Cultural Casework "training" guide that my supervisor has. I am really enjoying the explanation they have at the beginning of the manual. It really makes sense and puts it into laymen terms.

  • Preparation for the trip
    • Check your vehicles (self) out thoroughly. (This is something all social workers should do on a continual basis. Acknowledging your biases, prejudices, values, morals, etc. upfront will help you to recognize them in practice, esp. if they are impeding on your professional work with clients)
    • Leave behind extra baggage (hidden agenda) (I was not sure I understood this, so I asked Todd. He gave me this example, which is personal. I was raised by a single mother who was abused. She broke the cycle and provided me with a wonderful childhood, and is my best friend. Now, if I were interviewing a woman who wanted to adopt, and she had the same background that my mother had, I may show favoritism toward her as a choice for a child (when she might not be the best choice) because I have baggage/experience with a woman who overcame her abuse. It could also be a negative bias, etc.)
    • Pack useful stuff (strengths and experiences) (This is self explanatory. I can definitely relate to people, and I'm a good listener. My real skills do not naturally lie with people though. I excel in organization, working with data, research, etc. I know that I am shy around ppl I don't know and my nerves can screw up my thoughts and speech So, it will be interesting to see how my strengths play out, and I will definitely be working on my challenges!)
  • On the Road
    • Pay attn to road signs (msgs, info) (Makes sense. Be aware. Pay attention. Be open)
    • Watch for potholes (biases, prejudices, presumptions, negatives) (This is also self-explanatory. We ALL have these, and just knowing about them ahead of time, accepting them, and NOT applying them to your clients helps. You have to look at everyone with a blank slate. Not everyone fits into a mold, no matter how much we believe that)
    • Choose travelling companions carefully (friends, mentors, colleagues) (Agreed!)
  • Moving down the Road
    • Lifetime journey (continuous growth) (I am such a fan if education and professional/personal development. I will NO DOUBT be that social worker that attends numerous trainings/events/conferences to further my understanding and ability to assist people be the best they can be!)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Amazing Initiative to bring Education to girls in Sudan.

I met the creator of this program, a "Lost Boy of Sudan," back in Tampa during my anti-genocide advocacy days. He is pretty awesome and I'm so pleased his organization to bring education to the females of his country is moving full steam ahead. It looks like one of his team members is heading out to Sudan to make some dreams come true.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

No one can prepare you for what you're about to see.

Which would be ME, role playing a counseling session with a classmate, with the teacher and other classmates watching, and being video taped! eeep! *falls over* People watching me during my very first counseling attempt is nerve racking enough, but being taped, watching the tape with the class, and hearing all the criticisms (don't mind this so much) is even worse! Gah. I can do it though - I CAN DO IT! My partner is going be a young women who is pregnant and not sure of what her plan is. Fitting, no?

Met with my field supervisor yesterday to go over the learning plan, since the draft is due tonight. C. laid out every opportunity under the rainbow, and allowed me to choose which ones I wanted to focus on. Needless to say, I want to experience ALL of it, but my crazy life is not so accommodating to that these days. Once the plan is finalized, I will have a guide, and a guide is much needed. I want to make sure I stay focused. H O C U S F O C U S!

C. also sat with me a few hours (I feel so bad about this, even though it's part of the process, because she is SO busy) and explained some past situations with clients, some current issues she is dealing with, and some great successes. She's actually placed TWO sibling groups of FOUR with wonderful parents. Those type of successes don't come often, but man - that is certainly something to be proud of.

I really like C. and I feel blessed to have been placed in an agency under someone like her. She is big on reflective practice, which is looking inward and examining yourself in situations, asking yourself what could have been done differently, etc. I don't do this enough in my life so I'm looking forward to it. I am certain it will be of great help during this learning process.

She is also a counselor for pregnant women who are exploring the adoption option. This is a website created by Children's Home Society of Florida for these women:

I also must mention the HELL of a weekend I had! I had a migraine Friday night (not common for me, although I have headaches constantly from neck pain, hormones, etc). I went to bed and woke up at 2 AM to vomit! Ugh - not fun. Todd woke up and freaked out, poor guy. He stayed with me and got me some water. I woke up with the headache on Saturday, and my stomach was a mess all day. Boo. THEN, Sunday night, I couldn't sleep. I was SO alert, and didn't manage to sleep until 4 AM! Then, a rain storm woke me around 5 AM, and I had to get up at 6. So, my 2 hours of sleep was even interrupted. Lame. Yesterday sucked, but I go through it. Didn't end up going to sleep until late though, and now I feel really tired, even though I got 7 hours of sleep.

Anywho, I've got a lot to do. Ciao!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Today is the First Day of the Rest of your Life.

Today was my first day at my field placement. I am interning at a private, non-profit child welfare agency that handles adoptions for the Florida Department of Children and Families. My field supervisor, whom I will refer to as Supervisor handles private and international adoptions. She does the entire gamut:

  • helps "birth" mothers explore their options

  • finds "adoptive" parents for safe haven babies (mothers can leave their newborns at a police station, fire station, etc. without criminal charges)

  • matches adoptive parents with children

  • does home studies to ensure homes and families are safe/fit for taking care of a child,

  • attends all court hearings for termination of parental rights, finalization of adoption, etc.

  • takes care of all the paper work, progress notes, tracking and and managing the entire case, which is SERIOUS! I looked through a case file today. It was a 3 inch binder! Some of them require 2 binders!

  • There is much more to her job, but she didn't want to scare me much. :)

So, I was able to sit in on an intake meeting that Supervisor had with an "identified" adoption, which means the adoptive parents were identified by the birth parents. This is not as common as the typical way, where a couple comes in and asks to be matched with an available child. Supervisor gave the adoptive mother a bunch of paperwork to take home and return, and explained some things to her - including the fees. Yikes! There are many details about this case, and some red flags, that Supervisor and I discussed after the client left. Since I was able to see this case off right from the beginning, Supervisor wants me to be involved in the entire process - court, home study, etc. :D It's a good thing too, since I need to do a case presentation, and an assessment paper for my classes.

Supervisor and I had many discussions throughout the day, about her day-to-day, some of her current cases, some of her past cases, the terrible experience she had with her last intern! eeep! I am going to be an ANGEL compared to that one! She is also flexible with my time. Since I live 30 minutes away, there is plenty of things I can read at home (lots of reading in the beginning), as well as certain projects. I will be putting together a mega packet of info for adoptive parents and birth parents. It will include all kinds of articles - is adoption for you? exploring your options, when/how should you tell your child they are adopted, all kinds of medical information, etc. This is research I can do from home, so she is fine with this.

I must keep track of everything I do with progress notes. I need to keep my administrative duties (packets, research, etc) apart from client progress notes. However, the admin notes will prove to her the time I spent on each activity (reading, research, etc), along with the questions I will ask her. I will always have questions, of course, because that is the biggest proof that you read the materials! The last intern read the Florida Statues on Adoption in 2 hours with NO questions. NOT!

In the afternoon, I did a lot of reading, mainly of ONE case file. Massive, very detailed, very invlved. The entire life story of both adoptive and birth parents. Every single legal, financial, health, family, social, historical, criminal, etc. detail possible.

She has already scheduled me to accompany her to 2 finalization of adoptions at the court house at the end of the month, and a home study in October. Weeeeeeeeee! My head is spinning.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Field Seminar

So, I must admit that I am BEYOND excited/nervous/curious/happy/anxious to start my internship next Wednesday. I had my first Field Seminar class and I really like the professor. I think he is going to be a good facilitator and really aid in my learning experience.

The Field Seminar class is not assignment-heavy - thankfully! We have to do 2 presentations: One on the agency (think marketing) and the other on a case we are helping w/ at agency. We have miscellaneous paperwork to do throughout the semester, such as mid-term reports and evals, etc. However, our biggest assignment is the Educational Learning Plan that we must create with our Field Instructor. This is our learning bible, of sorts. Of course, we need to think of all the things that we want to learn - it is our education, of course - but our Field Instructor will most definitely come up with all the things that we must learn at this stage in the game, I am sure.

The things I have down so far:

  • Develop knowledge of the child welfare system, including parental rights, statutes regarding adoption, the foster-care system, safe haven laws, and shelters for runaways, etc. How? Review any information pertinent to working within the child welfare system. Research resources, programs, and services provided to these populations. Attend trainings, programs and events.

  • Develop competence in the NASW code of ethics and values. How? Read the NASW Code of Ethics. Review agency policy and procedures manual, and any other pertinent information. Discuss experience with ethical dilemmas with field instructor and how they handled the situation(s).

  • Develop client interviewing and consulting skills. How? Observe 3 client sessions per week. Co-facilitate 2 client sessions per week.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the dual responsibility of the child welfare case worker to protect children and to provide appropriate services to enable families to care for their children, including pre-placement preventive services. How?

  • Expand knowledge base regarding local, state and/or national-level policy or policy changes that affects the field agency’s clientele. How? Consult with field instructor regarding policy issues. Do research for information on policy and implication for client base. Consult staff member within agency who handles macro-level work.

  • Develop appropriate social work documentation skills. How? Review agency case notes for clients that are similar to the clients that I will be working with. Attend any training and review any material provided by agency on appropriate case note documentation procedures. Complete in Field Seminar class an oral bio-psycho-social presentation on a client I work with. Submit case notes to Field Instructor for feedback and make changes, as necessary.

  • Observe the legal side of the child welfare system. Accompany Field Instructor to court for such cases as termination of parental rights, etc. Review Florida statues regarding the adoption / foster care / family systems.

This is all I have so far. This isn’t easy to come up with!