STANDING IN THE GAP!
If you have not read the following posts do so before proceeding with this post.
An important role of the Secondary Nurturer is to build relationships with all of the Social Service professionals in the life of a child. It may begin with that dreaded call you have to make below.
Call the Department of Children and Family Services anonymously.
You have tried everything you know. But there doesn’t seem to be any other answer. You know what you must do, but you are worried about hurting the relationship you have with the community. DCFS has a 1-800 anonymous hotline you can call in every community. Find out what that number is where you live. If you know a child is being abused or neglected, you MUST call this number. Do not give any information about yourself. Tell them you are calling anonymously. They may try to bully you to tell them who you are because their job becomes easier when they have an actual “witness” to back up the charge. But you do NOT have to tell them anything about who you are. Depending on the seriousness of the allegations, the response time could be from 1 to 5 days; same day for a severe child abuse allegation; 3-5 days if the allegation is less severe. Be aware; they will most likely not make an immediate visit.
When kids are “taken,” insist on keeping in contact with social worker.
This is a little more difficult when an anonymous call has been made, but still possible. Regardless of how a kid is taken by DCFS, be sure you are keeping your eyes and ears open for such a possibility. Being the secondary-nurturer, you will know when such an event is likely to take place. If you see the kids being taken, be sure to introduce yourself to the social worker and ask for his/her business card so you can call him/her later when s/he is not so busy. Be sure that they understand the importance of your speaking with him/her. Later call and share who you are and what your ministry is doing to be a part of the community. Explain the nature of your relationship with the kid and ask if you could be a part of the process.
Be persistent. Tell them who you are and how you know the child.
If the social worker is vague or refuses to help, be persistent. Do NOT let him/her off. They have a right to not trust you at this point. Prove to him/her that you have a vested interest in this kid and will bug him/her until you can help. Go to his/her supervisor if you absolutely must. What can you do to help? Kids have been known to be mandated to attend a Center because of the input that a secondary-nurturer had with a social worker.
When a case goes to court, DO NOT miss it.
When a kid’s case goes to court, be sure that you are there. One way or another, be there. Even if a parent cannot be there, get into that court room. This is your chance to share Jesus’ love and consistency in this kid’s life. In the case of a neglectful parent, it can show a judge that the kid has a support system at home.
Be sure that you have information of the family/kid with you.
Be prepared. Bring your notes and the paperwork that you may need. Know what you should bring and what you should NOT bring. Occasionally, there may be information that will incriminate rather than help a family/kid. You may need to reveal some things about the kid and/or his parent s/he doesn’t like, but if it will help him/her, you MUST do it.
Be prepared to show that you are there on behalf of the kid.
Go on behalf of the kid and the parent. You will win the respect of the parent, the kid, and the court. Judges have been known to give teens a second chance and lenient judgment because of a secondary-nurturer’s presence in the courtroom. As the secondary-nurturer, it is your opportunity to get to know the social workers, lawyers, and judge.
Be assertive; talk to lawyers. Let them know who you are and why you are there. Get their information.
Introduce yourself to the lawyer “defending” the parent/kid. Let him/her know you are there to help in any way that you can. Lawyers have been known to recommend other, “better,” lawyers who will work for free because they see someone else in the community reaching out trying to help. Do not be afraid to share what your ministry is doing in your community and how you have a desire to see this parent/kid succeed. When lawyers and judges see that someone is COMMITTED to walking through life with a kid, they are more likely to be lenient; but realize that this means the responsibility will fall on your shoulders. The judge will look to you to help keep this parent/kid out of trouble . How will you respond? What will you do? Do you have a plan? What can you tell the judge that will be different from what s/he has already heard?
Continue to keep in contact with everyone you meet.
Take notes of everything you hear and get business cards from everyone you meet. Be sure you follow-up and see what you need/can do to help this parent/kid.
ANY time you have contact with a social worker, get information to call later.
Many times when a kid is removed from his/her home, there are at least 2-3 different social workers working the case. The social worker who originally takes the kid from his/her home is rarely on the case all the way through. Be sure you keep track of the names and contact info of all social workers involved in your kid’s case. Keeping contact info up-to-date is the difference between being able to call or visit your kid at his/her foster home or not.
BE ASSERTIVE! BE ASSERTIVE! BE ASSERTIVE!