A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a new foster mom. She told me that she knew the kids placed in her care would come from tough places, that it might be tough to work with them and with their biological parents. She expected that, but what she didn’t expect is that it would sometimes be tough to work with others, like the social workers.
I expected something similar, I think, when I started volunteering as a CASA. Even though I had heard the stories, even though I thought I understood the reality, I was still a little surprised. I shouldn’t have been. There are lots of wonderful social workers, yes, but there are also plenty who are burned out or just incompetent. Even the good ones can be easily overworked and overwhelmed by a system that has to care for far too many children.
Like the foster mom I spoke to, this is often the most frustrating part of it for me. But after doing this for a little while now, there is one conclusion I’ve come to, that kind of helps it all make sense: it’s all broken.
It’s not just the kids that are broken, or their drug-addicted parents. It’s not even just the foster care system. It’s all of it, and all of us, because we were born into a broken world.
Sometimes my sense of justice, even my understanding of logic, wants to scream out, “This is not the way it’s supposed to be!” And this is true. But it isn’t because in a perfect world, a social worker would always return phone calls and never make ill-advised decisions. It’s because in a perfect world, there would be no need for social workers, for CASAs, or for foster parents. In a perfect world, parents would love and be able to meet the needs of their children. They wouldn’t be fighting substance abuse and poverty and their own neglected upbringing.
I absolutely believe in God’s redemption. I know, and have seen, how He truly gives beauty for ashes and gladness for mourning. But somehow, it also helped when I realized that very little in this work makes sense because it was plan B to start with.