Lessons from Child Welfare

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I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while. What did I learn after almost a decade working for a Children’s Aid Society in Ontario, Canada? (These are my views and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the agency I worked for), still I think it’s important to share my takeaways as part of my own journey. I speak for no one in this post but myself.

What did I learn? Where do I start?

The people that work for child welfare are people that care, and they care a lot, however it is the constraints of the system that prevent them from going the extra mile much of the time. The paper work and policies dictated much of what I did, especially when working in the protection department.

Sometimes, because of the excessive demands, workers get burnt out. I didn’t want this myself but after extended periods of non-stop giving, it happened.

This leads me to my next point, I had to find a way to give back to myself. That also meant saying “no” a lot. It may have meant less for the people I worked with and not having the “best worker” status but my personal sanity was more important.

Families are complicated. So very complicated.

I honestly believe that parents want what is best for their children, it just get lost in the translation of their own pain and struggles.

People have the ability to change.

People in our communities don’t understand the cycle of poverty, addiction and abuse. No one wakes up in the morning and decides they want this for themselves or their children. It happens because they are in pain and they don’t know another way. (I had never witnessed poverty to the extent that it was when I was exposed to a First Nation.)

Families can come in all different shapes and forms. It’s not who you are related to, but who is there for you when you need it. Love knows no bounds.

I witnessed people living in modest houses and apartments with modest means but their lives were so rich and full. There are so many wonderful people out there.

I have seen communities. extended families, foster parents rally together for the love of a child. They don’t always agree and are stubborn but the best interest of a child is at the heart of many, many people.

I have also seen people destroy a child’s inner flame because of their own fighting and foolishness; their inability to empathize with another’s struggles and the need to be “right”.

I have also reflected on how many of my own triggers impacted my work. My own ability to dismiss and write people off based on my own experiences. I got a taste of what it was like to abuse power. The system is set up for this.

Babies and children and teens are precious. They are the future and the next generation.

To anyone that has made it out of the “system”. I admire you.

Karla x

Life Lessons at 38…

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As I sit down to write, I think about many of the life lessons I have learned at 38.

I also think about a chat with an Indigenous friend, who explained to me that the Medicine Wheel also represents the life cycle. The idea is to progress through each phase of the life cycle while gleaning learning and wisdom; thereby allowing you to move to the next phase.

Through trauma and unresolved issues we can become stuck in a particular phase of our life cycle. For me (after much therapy, reading, education and work experience) I have come to understand that when we are stuck in anger or hurt we are stunted in a way that is often harmful to ourselves and to others. (Erik Erikson’s Stages of Development would also apply here nicely).

Working through my own trauma has allowed me to appreciate and understand the life lessons that they have become and I continue to work at not saying “stuck”.

I would like to share a few of the life lessons that I have learned at 38 in hopes of inspiring another and/or helping another to get unstuck. (The thing is, there are many that have walked similar paths before you…it helps to listen). Here we go:

Your intuition is a real thing. Pay attention.

Our minds and our hearts are often in disagreement. Whenever possible, follow the thing that beats in your chest.

You will be scared shitless. Taking incremental, baby steps helps.

Have faith that you are deserving of greatness. Because you are.

Don’t be discouraged if you fall backwards, it happens.

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel you are healing “fast enough”.

A few may have been mentioned in a previous post How do I….heal? Part 1.