A Caseworker’s View of Removals

Author’s note: This is a guest post from a child welfare professional. It is necessary to seek out the perspectives of everyone involved in the foster care system, and to learn a caseworker’s view of removals.

Removals. There are many definitions of the word. Sometimes, removals can be good things; such as the removal of a brain tumor, or a pesky rodent in your crawl space, or the removal of an unwanted weed in your garden. Other removals can be tragic; such as the removal of a parent from the home due to death, or the removal of a pet from a home due to neglect, or of a teenager’s cellphone due to poor grades (tragic to the cellphone-dependent teen).

But what about the removal of children from their homes? Some may say tragic. Others may say good. I would like to share a story about the removal of children from their home, and let you decide. 

I worked a case recently where our office was sent orders to remove three teenagers from an unsafe situation. Upon arriving to the home to carry out the removal of these youth, it was sudden, pure, chaos. Myself and my co-worker arrived at the home with law enforcement where all three youth were inside the home, supposedly planning their escape.

Lots of pleading and knocking on the door. Kids were in shock, screaming, crying and shaking uncontrollably. Eventually, we were able to get the kids placed. It was 2:00 am when placement was made. I got back to the office at 3:30 am. All together, the removal and placement of the kids took six hours – basically, an entire night.

The following day was a holiday, so our office was closed. I tossed and turned as I tried to sleep. I kept thinking about how traumatic the experience had been for those youth, and for myself and the other worker. During our 6 hours with them, we were called “monsters”, we “stripped them of any self-respect and dignity” they had, that we take kids for a paycheck, we didn’t care about them, we made their lives a living hell, and that we were useless workers.

Six hours of belittling and degrading. Six hours of holding back tears. Six hours of feeling so sorry for what they were experiencing, that we couldn’t feel sorry for ourselves. We were hungry, tired, and trying to make trauma-informed decisions for youth who could’ve cared less what we felt. 

I laid in bed awake the next day worried sick. From adrenaline rush to total exhaustion, I wondered if they were okay. I thought about them being dropped off with strangers, going to a new school, and how they were visibly shaking walking into their foster home.

I couldn’t sleep. I laid awake for hours thinking about how I could’ve better handled the removal. If I had said enough encouraging words…if I fed them enough…what my next encounter with them would look like. If I felt all of this…. what were they feeling? This is a caseworker’s view of removals.

I drove to work the following day; into the parking lot so slow you would’ve thought it was ice covered. I hesitated to turn my car off. I sat there in the parking lot and cried. I didn’t want to go in. I didn’t want to be a “monster” as those youth had put it. I didn’t want to participate anymore. It was very clear that I had secondary trauma from that removal. Some would give us accolades for removing those youth from a neglectful and abusing home life, but I have some questions to pose. 

What could we as a society do to prevent removals from happening? What could we do to provide proactive services to at-risk families? What could we do to provide supports to youth in crisis? What could we as a society do to assist workers who do have to work with childhood trauma, thus often incurring secondary trauma?

What extensive damage may we unintentionally cause that could possibly be worse than remaining in the natural home with supports? Did we really provide all preventative efforts?

Please pray for these youth, and any other youth who are at-risk. Please pray for workers who have to work with these families on the daily basis who see and hear more than one could typically stomach. Please pray that doctor, juvenile officers and law enforcement officers can see the whole picture and the lasting impact that may come from signing those papers.

A caseworker’s view of removals is often heartbreaking, and I ask that you please pray for guidance on how you might help this broken system. 

2 thoughts on “A Caseworker’s View of Removals

  1. Cathryn O'Leary

    The emphasis of this post seemed to be the how taking children from their homes affected the case worker more than the children being taken. Word of advice: if you can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t compensate. If you are not at peace with your job and have to post blogs or get on social media to make yourself feel better…time to get another job. If children need to be taken from their parents and their homes for good reason, why are you feeling so guilty? Also, obviously it can be chaotic but its also obvious that maybe the best social workers actually have children themselves. Maybe should be a mandate.

  2. Maryann

    This is definitely a hard thing. We have seen how hard this can effect a child, however from the foster parents side, We have seen growth and a realization that how they were being raised was not good. The trauma from the abuse. The shaking and feeling sick in the belly when they think that they have to visit the bio family. How afraid they are that they will be asked to come home, or afraid that the bio family won’t show. There are so many mix emotions. They love there bio family, but now they love their foster family. Our one did not ever want to go back, our other just dreamed of going back. Even though she would say I never had parents like you. My mom didn’t care if I was sick. You checked on me and took care of me. She hasn’t been in our house for 11 months but still calls us mom and dad. Her goal is to still go home. The other is still with us her brother and is being adopted by us very soon. He prays for his sister that she sees how bad they had it. I know that what a social worker does is a hard thing, but remember some of these children get an amazing chance to do something different with their life. We for one are thankful to the police and social worker who took these two out of the situation that they were in. Believe me you saved our son from a life that one day could of landed him in a real bad place.

Leave a Reply