Willing to Listen – My preventive worker was a real blessing

On March 25, 2004, after my daughter had been in care for three years, the judge released her to her father and me on a trial discharge. That meant that we’d be supervised by a preventive services agency for a year. I found an agency right down the block from me and met my new preventive worker. His name was Rene and he was Mexican, like me. As I got to know him and found out what preventive services was, I wished I’d gone to the agency years ago, before my family fell apart.

When I met Rene I was a little nervous, but he was very quiet and nice. We talked about what was expected of me, and he asked, “Does your family need anything? How do you feel with Little Mama being home?” He told me that he would help me with anything I needed for my family.

I Needed Support

I was really surprised, because when my daughter was in foster care, my ACS caseworker seemed not to care about my feelings. When I met with her, I felt the system hanging over me. She seemed to look down on me, as if I didn’t feel a mother’s love for my child.

My ACS worker hurt my feelings deeply on two occasions. The first came when I’d already been clean for a year and was upset that I was getting only supervised visits. I said to my worker, “I’m tired of all this. I need my daughter home with me.” My worker looked at me and said, “Well, Sylvia, you have to work very hard, due to your past…” That really hit me hard in my chest. I wanted her to acknowledge that I’d been working hard for more than a year. I went to the gloomy bathroom with Lydia and cried.

‘You’re Supposed to Keep Families Together’

Another time, in family court, the ACS worker told my husband, “You should get your own place. You’ll get your daughter faster than Sylvia, because you’ve never had any children in the system.” That comment was so disrespectful to our marriage. I felt I had to approach her. “Why would you say something like that?” I said. “You are supposed to keep families together.” The ACS worker tried to cover herself by saying that she didn’t mean any harm. But her comments made me feel she didn’t support me at all.

A Worker who Listened

When I went to the preventive agency, I thought I would still feel like ACS had its chains on me. Instead, I felt released. Rene wasn’t judgmental. He was very comforting and willing to truly listen to me. He didn’t shut me down.

One of the first things I told him was that I felt I didn’t need to continue with a drug treatment aftercare program. After two years of rehab I felt stable in my recovery, and I didn’t want to go for urine tests anymore. Rene listened and advised me on how to present my request to my ACS worker. He also talked to his supervisor. I ended up being allowed to drop that program.

Regaining My Confidence

When the winter months came I asked Rene if they had a coat drive at the agency, because my family and I couldn’t afford winter coats. The next week, I was given three coats. That was a true blessing.

Another time I ran into trouble with my public assistance case. I received a letter from welfare saying that I didn’t show up for an appointment and they were going to reduce my check. I was very upset. I’d been at that appointment! I called Rene immediately. He read the letter and then he faxed over some papers asking that I get a “fair hearing” so I could fight the decision. When I went to the fair hearing, I won. I was so grateful for Rene’s help. He gave me back my confidence in myself.

Reach Out for Help

When the year was over, I realized I would miss Rene. If I ever have problems in the future, I’ll definitely go and seek help at that agency. I wish I’d known about preventive services before I lost my daughter to the system. I truly believe that if such kind and gentle workers had met with us before ACS took Lydia, we might have gotten the help we needed without being so emotionally bruised.