Behavior Modification

Recently, a teen on my caseload, lets call her Clarissa, asked if I was upset with her. At first, my response was, “Why would I be mad?, Its your life, Clarissa, you know what you’re doing.” Clarissa and I spent most of the day together, working on an internship application and making her appointments at the agency. A treatment team conference was held and all of the experts on her life are in attendance. Her entire history and life is discussed, flaws and strengths on the table, bullshit called, and goals set. Clarissa once asked me if I felt it was wrong for someone to throw things you’ve shared with them in your face. My answer was that it was obvious that she felt it was unfair and we discussed her feelings on it. Personally, I think its fighting filthy and desperate.

Working in foster care, you see a lot of self sabotage, longing for love and kids destitute of all trust. I try on a daily basis not to take it personal, I recall being a teenager not long ago and hurting so many of the people I loved. I recall disappointing those around me, rationalizing all of my decisions and never allowing anyone to understand me. I see myself in so many of my cases and in that, I see hope. I can sacrifice hours, health, hunger and sleep because too many people have given up on today’s youth. When Clarissa asks me questions about personal opinions, I see in her a search for approval and when Clarissa partakes in shocking or risky activities, she yearns for a reaction that says, I care enough about you.

Last week, my supervisor said to me, you know, its really telling that insert foster children’s names are doing well, it reflects in how much effort you have put in their success. I felt great at that point, that someone who has been in this field for so long and once had my position, would notice my drive to help. However, there is a detachment between supervisors and actual caseloads, while knowledgeable, most is hearsay through transition meetings. I prefer direct care, I want to work as close as possible to youth. It is the only thing that makes me happy.

The moments that count to me are not when recognized by someone in a superior role but when it has become a realization for the youth that I am caring for. Today, maybe an hour after telling Clarissa that I was not angry with her for not fulfilling her responsibilities and accepting her foster mother’s consequences of our treatment plan, she apologized for taking up so much of my time, using my office to type essays that she was supposed to have written before showing up without an appointment, taking up the majority of my day while my progress notes piled up.

This brings me to my reason for writing in the first place. As Clarissa typed away at my desk, hoping to be chosen for an internship, I ruminated over my own reaction, stating I was not angry. Well, I was not angry with her but I was disappointed. Clarissa is one of the only females on my caseload and we work together a lot. I see in her a drive towards independence, survival and success. Although, the “system” and the “agency” do not exactly promote complete independent success, my hope is to break the mold and really get our youth to see cause and effect, behavior and consequence, and goal and fruition.

After accepting her apology, I explained to her that I would continue to lose sleep, meals and paper work time if it meant that she was doing what she needed to do. I described to her, her behaviors that led me to feel disappointed and then described all the things that she had done that day to make up for it, taking care of responsibilities that were important. “As long as you do what you need to do, I don’t mind helping you…” She turned to me and said, “Ms.Rosanna, I don’t mean to interrupt you but I want you to know that I have learned a lot since you became my sociotherapist…”

& It is in those moments where I know I have done right. I know I have worked to my potential and I know that my heart is in the right place. When I quit Boys Town, a lot of my kids were upset, they said things like, “Ms. Rosy, you’re the only one that I could talk to…” or “You’re the only one that cares.” These are the things that matter to me. For so long, I have cared for the people around me. I have given 100% because I cared and so many times, I found myself hurt by those people or the decisions they made. I have since lost faith in friendships and I have become realistic about romantic relationships. I realize now that I can be content being someone that marries their work because I can give to those who need it, those who have gone forgotten.  One day, I will make a difference.


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