A social worker assesses her life and her cases in this excerpt from An Accidental Life.
Joyce stared at the mound of paperwork in front of her and sighed. She had already completed ten court reports in the first two weeks of this month and had another eight to finish before the month ended. Sometimes it all seemed like a big vicious cycle: home visits, case plans, case notes, court reports; then, everything all over again the next month. Every month she had to see every one of the forty-some children under her supervision, as well as their parents and foster parents; she had to document everything she did with the families; she had to coordinate all the services to the families and arrange visits between children and parents; and last, but not least, she consulted with the service providers, parents, and foster parents before making her recommendations to the court.
She’d been doing all this for so many years now that sometimes she lost count. Nineteen long years. And everything had changed drastically since those days in the seventies. With the eighties had come major changes in legislation. Those changes evolved over the years until finally, in the nineties, the impossible demands of the job were mind boggling. But she kept coming back. Why?
Grinning slightly at the insanity of her own motivations, she opened the case file on Bree Taylor. The smile receded from her face. Not one of her success stories! This one had a court hearing coming up in August, a six-month review. Normally, she’d feel relieved at the progress her client appeared to be making. All the reports indicated that Bree was complying with the case plan. She had finished her primary treatment at the outpatient center; she was attending aftercare; she’d finished her parenting class. And now she was having six-hour visits. The court had approved overnight visits, and those could begin as soon as Joyce decided it was appropriate. Why was she hesitating?
Something about the way that girl behaved around the baby. Detached. No little baby talk or kissy-face. Although those kinds of behaviors could be contrived, Joyce would have felt a whole lot better if she’d seen anything resembling affection between Bree and her baby. And Bree was pregnant again!
She reviewed all the notes and service provider reports. Nothing in there reinforced her gut feelings about the girl. Everybody seemed impressed by Bree. Even when she was having supervised visits, the remarks of the supervisors indicated that Bree seemed to do all the right things. She picked up the baby, she fed him, she seemed to know about his routines….
Maybe she should ask for a bonding study. No, the court tended to hold off on those kinds of orders until there was a chance that parental rights were going to be terminated. And this case was not going in that direction.
Shaking her head slightly, Joyce closed the file. Then she realized the time and began stashing her things into her briefcase. She was scheduled to pick Jonathan up from Bree’s apartment and transport him back to the foster home. She’d agreed to do this because both Bree’s apartment and the foster home were in the same general vicinity, and it would be easier than having them both meet back at the office. Ready at last, she hurried down the stairs and out to the parking lot. She remembered just in time that she needed a car seat and grabbed one from the closet on her way out the door.