The Power of Relationships
This month's guest post was written by Levi Campbell, a Parent Coach at Chaddock in the Foster and Adoption Department. Levi enjoys reading, watching reality tv (huge "Big Brother" and Netflix’s "The Circle" fan), and shopping Amazon for weird new hoodies to wear!
On December 5, 2016, I walked through the doors of Chaddock not having a single clue what I was really getting myself into. I had been warned of the paperwork that came with being a caseworker, but I had no idea of the impact that Chaddock and working in the foster care system would have on me and the impact I would make on it.
I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has said, “I don’t know how you do what you do” or “How do you do it? Doesn’t it break your heart?” I struggle to put my “why” into words, so I’m going to share with you a couple of stories from my time as a caseworker.
Have you seen the movie Inside Out?? If not, you should. Similar to a core memory (those little balls of memories colored by emotion that make up who the main character is) these moments are part of my “core why.”
It was December 2017 and my first Christmas as a caseworker out of training. I was on my last visit of the night before my grown-up Christmas vacation (read that as doing nothing but watching Christmas movies in my pajamas and eating lots of food!) began.
Little did I know, this visit was about to impact how I saw myself as a caseworker.
I walked in to find two children so very happy to show me a Christmas present they had for me. You see, the month before while we were playing Barbies, we talked about how they loved Christmas and I told them I was excited about getting a new Christmas tree - not something I would expect them to remember. I opened the present to find two Christmas ornaments that were hand-colored by them. They were so excited to give me my first ornaments for my new tree. We spent the next half hour sitting on the floor while they talked about why they chose each color and design.
It was sitting in that moment I realized the impact I can have on the children and families on my caseload and also the impact they have on me... and every year when I hang ornaments, it’s another gentle reminder that the greatest impact can come from the small moments.
In August of 2018 I had my first experience of returning two children home to a parent. The happiness I felt for this family was of course nothing compared to the happiness this family felt. Truthfully though, I usually get teary-eyed at these court hearings. It is hard to convey how powerful a moment it is when parents get their children home and no longer need Chaddock’s involvement.
It was after this hearing when the parent said, “Thank you for having the hard conversations with me that no one else seemed to want to have,” I learned the power and importance of relationships in change. It was then I realized the privilege and honor it is to walk with someone in a time of hardship.
And it’s all of the little things that turned out to be the big things. Like the teenager who spent 30 minutes with me on FaceTime to learn how to tie a tie for a big first date - and then called me after his big date to talk about it. And the family that sends updates even after case closure and adoption. And the visit when a dog peed on my lap and I had to sit with wet pants for the next two hours of the visit. And the birthday lunches with the children on my caseload. And the amazing coworkers that help pick you up after a long day. And the pictures children have colored hanging in my office. And the foster parent who gave me a cold Mountain Dew to stay awake when I brought a child to their house at 2:30 in the morning. And all of the other great relationships that I have formed.
Life is full of little moments that create a lasting impact if you have the courage to show up for them.
Working in Child Welfare is hard and also rewarding. I think what I love most is the direct impact we make on our local community. Nothing brings me greater joy in this job than a child achieving permanency; whether that’s being returned home to their parent or finding their forever home through adoption. Every child deserves a chance.
At Chaddock, relationships are fundamental to everything we do. They are the glue that holds our work together, whether we are a therapist, a teacher, a custodian, a secretary, or a cook, the relationships we build and foster are the most important aspect of our job.
Our goal is to create relationships that foster safety, vulnerability, growth, change and ultimately healing.
When you work with children and families you are often holding their lives in your hands and there are many hard conversations to be had. We know that without a relationship, we will be unable to help our clients find the courage to have these conversations with us. In order to build this relationship, we must be present for not only the big moments, but for all of the little, seemingly insignificant, moments too.
At Chaddock, we have realized that every moment is important and it is our ability to be consistently present for these moments that makes a huge difference in whether our children and families experience success and in this case, become a family once again.