As a kid growing up in a series of foster homes, whenever the social worker would show up at the door it would brighten my day. Even if I didn’t particularly like the social worker who showed up, just their personal appearance would mean at least a few days of relief from the usual abuse that went on. Since I didn’t attend the one-to-one session between the social worker and my foster parents I was never quite sure whether they were acting out of fear or guilt when they would be on their best behavior for the first few days after that interview.
Maybe it was both. For me, the abuse started in earnest when I was taken from my mother and father by the local Department of Social Services. I was ten years old at the time. Even though my mom was a schizophrenic and had trouble looking after me sometimes, and my dad was an alcoholic, they were kind and loving most of the time, and never hurt me deliberately. However, once I started shuffling from foster home to foster home it was often a different story. Between the ages of 10 and 16 I lived in seven different foster homes.
Many of my foster parents and/or caregivers during that time were kind-hearted, and some of them even tried very hard to do the best that they could. But these people had little or no training on how to deal with me. Most of them got involved in foster care in order to qualify for the allowance check at the end of the month. On the other hand, for every good foster caregiver, there was another one who had as many or more “issues” than the kids in their care. Consequently, by the time I was 16 years old I had been abused sexually, physically and emotionally, numerous times.
One might wonder why, after a childhood like that, I am now applying to a Masters of Social Work program. For a while I wondered myself why I just didn’t put as much distance as I could between me and foster care now that I have the choice. In the end it pretty well comes down to the old cliche “I just want to make a difference”. I started to realize this need when I was in college and did some volunteer service stints working with youth groups in my old neighborhood.
It almost goes without saying that if a kid comes from that neighborhood they’re troubled or abused or neglected and ended up on the emergency room at times. Well, it seems that I was a natural at relating to these kids. I had no trouble identifying with them. They could sense that I had “been there and done that”, so they paid attention to what I had to say. Even though I was only a part-time volunteer I managed to put smiles on some faces and was able to give a few kids hope for the future. I can’t tell you how good this made me feel. All warm and fuzzy inside, to say the least.
Since I graduated from undergraduate 5 years years ago I have been working in different positions. As a secretary, social worker, parent aide to name a few. I have a good future ahead of me. Nevertheless, I seem to have this gnawing emptiness inside of me that just doesn’t get filled through some of the jobs that I listed. It seems that the only time I get relief from that empty feeling is on those weekends that I spend volunteering at the local church with neglected and abused children. So I have finally come out of denial and resolved to face this issue head on.
I have decided that I want to be a full time medical social worker. I want to help those kids who are living the “hell” that I lived through. I truly want to make a difference in their lives. I have done research into a number of Masters Programs in Social Work and have concluded that the program offered by the University of South Carolina is a perfect for my interest in focusing on neglected and abused children. With a Master’s degree from the University program, I am convinced that I will be able to change many lives for the better.