Dealing with an Imperfect System

If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.  -Leo Tolstoy

 Do you ever get the feeling that you’re dealing with an imperfect system?  Of course you are.   Perfect is a myth.  Consequently,  serving in foster care requires learning to handle business even when situations are not ideal.   Many parents complain about caseworkers.   Sometimes it’s difficult to contact a caseworker.  Or maybe a case worker seems unconcerned about the child in your care.

Let me assure you, after getting to know many caseworkers I’ve learned that most of them are doing their very best in extremely difficult situations.   They have limited funding, excessive caseloads and exposure to intense trauma.   They do their jobs because they care about kids.  So, no matter how tough it might be, remember we are all on the same team: imperfections and all.

Talk with your caseworker to find the best way to contact them.  Email? Phone call? Text?

Ask them who they would like you to call if you cannot get a hold of them.

Be quick to say something positive and encouraging.  As the old proverb says, “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.


“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” -Einstein

Time and chance can be strange bedfellows.  My husband and I were sitting at a Foster Parent Association training at our local DSS.  I was bouncing a sweet baby on my lap.  She had just entered foster care.  On top of that, she was the first child to come into our home.  I was doing my best to focus on the class. But the chubby cheeks before me were a delightful distraction.  I guess that’s why I didn’t notice someone walking behind me.   Then I jumped a little when someone tapped me on the shoulder.  I’ve always been one to startle easily.

“Are you Ms. Verwers?”  I suddenly felt like a kid wondering how to answer.   Did I do something wrong?

“Yes. That’s me.  Can I help you? ”

“The baby’s mom is here and would like to see her.”  I was a little befuddled and a lot unprepared as I followed her though a maze of gray cubicles where two women sat nervously.

“Baby,”  the mother reached out and started kissing baby as grandma sat nearby, trying to hold back tears.  I introduced myself and asked about any allergies or things I should know.

“She likes to dance,” mom said.

“Oh yes, we noticed that.  If there’s a beat she starts shakin’ it.”  We smiled for a moment, our lives now intertwined because of this little dancing baby.

I spent the next 40 minutes or so with this family.   Even though I missed the class,  I was learning.   When baby came to us, it was all about her.   There in that cubical it became clear this was about her and her family.     The fact that I just happened to be attending class while the caseworker was developing a family plan was a coincidence.  Baby was home in three months.  Yes, time and chance are strange bedfellows.

Defining Words and Labels

Ward.  The words don’t roll nicely off my tongue and my ears cringe at the sound.  It’s not a poetic or playful word.   It feels cold, like a sterile hospital wing.   So, I was taken by surprise when an uncle at my family reunion commended us for taking in a ward.   Now, I know he meant no ill will with his word choice, but it felt like salt on a wound as he said it. By definition,  it’s what I do. I take responsibility for caring for a child being supervised by the state.   But I never really saw myself as taking in wards.   I wish I could go back in time  and formulate an eloquent response.   I wish I could have explained how special every child is and we all have a part to play in caring for kids in our community.  But I simply said, “Someone has to take care of these children and I’m glad it’s us.”    Maybe that’s all I needed to say.

His comment really got me thinking.   Words define and label.

  • When was the last time I evaluated the language I used surrounding my role?
  • Is my language hope giving and respectful?
  • Am I using language that affirms relationships and individuals?

Lets use words and labels to build the children, families and workers we serve.