Sorry to those of you who thought of the horrible movie "training day" before the fact that I am in my first week of training with my new job. (And sorry to Famous Dave: I will have to teach you about compost piles at a later date.)
So, I've survived 3 fairly intense days of training in Norman with the OKDHS training team. Everyone so far that's spoken to us has over 20 years experience with some side of DHS. It's incredible. I selfishly hope I do not become such a person. Anyway, here's the breakdown so far:
Day 1: Values, Objectivity, Storytime, Overview of Child Protective Services
We are told that whatever personal values we hold, we must leave them at the door. What is normal and acceptable for us is not the same for someone else, especially those who become our clients. A dirty house is the norm for them. A clean one is the norm for us. A mom smoking pot while her child is at school to relieve "stress" is not questionable (until she starts abusing/neglecting her kids). Those are just examples of what the lady told us and examples of the great laws in Oklahoma. You can smoke pot (until the police find out) and raise a child (as long as you're not abusing/neglecting your child.) You can have a dirty house until it affects the safety and well-being of your children. (Please note that dirty house can mean dirty clothes, leftover food, bugs, and it gets worse from there.) You can even test positive for drugs at your baby's birth and unless law enforcement or child welfare can prove you are abusing or neglecting that child or your other children, you go free. The In's and outs of a complex system sometimes aren't so great to learn. I apologize that I can't re-tell the stories I heard. Trust me they were believable an unbelievable at the same time. I kind of already touched on CPS policy...basically it's tricky and all about interpretation.
Day 2: CPS Policy, Sexual Abuse broad overview, Domestic Violence Oprah video
We learned when you can and can't remove a child from the home. We heard more stories about how the DA or judge let a father go free who admitted to brutally abusing his 8 week old baby girl. We learned a bagillion definitions and why it's important to know them and when they apply to situations. We got a watered down overview of sexual abuse which will be in depth next week. Finally, we watched an Oprah episode where she interviewed 3 women who were victims of domestic violence and heard their stories. It was super frustrating to hear them choose their partner over their children again and again.
Day 3: Slides and more slides.
We got to hear some stories today, but it was mostly pictures and videos. Today was sad and depressing. We were shown actual pictures of child victims of abuse and neglect. Everything from bruises, to scars, to burns, to head trauma, to death. 3 hours. It sucked and I cried and contemplated quitting my job. Then, we watched a Frontline story about a 4 year old who died in the Foster Care of a DHS worker of 25 years. The woman was an intake supervisor and was a foster mom to 2 little girls plus her own 2 boys. I won't tell you the story because there's no reason for you to know but it was very sad and depressing and I cried some more, questioned the nature of humanity, asked God why and how people were capable of doing such things, contemplated quitting my job again, and then spent the car-ride home trying to process the day.
I'm exhausted and a bit overwhelmed by the job I have undertaken. I am daily being confirmed that I'm in the right job. But we all know that job you love and feel called to has it's bad days.
I can say that this job has made me eternally grateful for the parents I have and had growing up. My life wasn't perfect and I thought I had it rough. Seeing the evils that go on down the street and next door to me, I have to hope that change is possible and that humanity is good and that life doesn't have to be this way for over 600,000 kids in DHS custody nation-wide.
I hope that now you will hope as well.