This is a question staff here at Boone County CASA get asked quite often and are sure counselors, caseworkers, and many others hear this all the time. Doesn’t your work ever break your heart? or How do you do that everyday? We’ve also heard many version of Don’t you just want to take them all home?
The simple answer is yes. Yes, sometimes it breaks our hearts. Sometimes it almost physically hurts to be in a room with a child who can’t count, or read, or has reactive attachment disorder so badly they don’t know how to accept even the smallest kindness due to a short but reliable lifetime of abuse/neglect. Sometimes, when a child is underfed and homeless, bruised and scared, patched up in a cast or living a very hard life with a treatable illness, the job is very, very sad. If it didn’t strike a worker as sad, as wrong, then this probably wouldn’t be the right profession to be in.
However, there is more reason to smile than many people may think. We see victories, big and small, all the time. We get to hear about it and sometimes even see it when a child, born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, learns to walk and talk. Yes, it may be later than their peers. Yes, its still a victory worth celebrating. We get to see when a child who has rarely been hugged is able to climb on the lap of a foster parent for comfort. We get to see when a mother, once drug addicted, is able to look at her children sober and promise them she’s turned the corner. Those are things that make the hard days even a bit less stressful.
Also, importantly, we have to learn to let go. We cannot be accountable for other people’s decisions. We have to be able to go home or to our ‘happy’ place without carrying constant worry and sadness with us. This is a lesson nearly everyone in a field which serves at-risk populations must learn. Sometimes the only accomplishment we’ll be able to claim is I tried my hardest. That, too, is a victory.