Posted by: chlost | June 4, 2010

My life is easy

My job involves working with and for people who are dealing with some of the worst times in their lives.  They are parents who are in the court system.  They have had their children removed from their care.  They are dealing with the court, police, social workers, counselors, judges, probation agents, and me.

I also work with and for juveniles in the court system. Almost all of them are growing up in dysfunctional families, where their parents have chemical issues, mental health issues, and violence in their lives.  Or, they are charged with crimes which require them to be placed away from their homes.  They may be away from their parents for the first time in their life.  The juveniles themselves have often been abused, physically, emotionally and/or sexually.  Many times that abuse has come from family members.  Many times, the child is accused of abusing other family members. I can no longer count the number of 13 year-old sex offenders whom I have known.  Thirteen years old.  Born in 1997, folks.  What were you doing in 1997?

For the most part, I love working with the kids.  And, for the most part, I hate working with their parents.  The parents are clueless.  Most have no idea what parenting involves.  Many are repeating the vicious cycle of their own lives, as their parents also were clueless.  Most have good intentions, and for the most part, I think the parents love their children to the ability that they are able to do so. Because of mental illness and/or drug addiction, many parents are not able to love their children as needed by the children.  Often, the parents use the children to fill a need of the parent, not the other way around.

Many of the children we see lately are homeless, or soon to be homeless.  We have the highest rates of foreclosure in our state, and one the highest in the country  These children have been moved from school to school as the parents are able to find work, housing and support systems.

We have been dealing with many adopted children whose adoptive parents are now trying to reverse the adoption.  The children have many issues which the parents did not anticipate and are not willing to handle.  Remember the mom who tried to send her adopted son back to  Russia?  It is happening everywhere.  One of my clients is 15.  He was horribly abused by his biological family.  He acted out sexually against an adoptive sibling.  He is doing sex offender treatment.  His adoptive family moved out of state and are refusing to take him back or to be involved in his treatment.  We have adoptive families in court asking a judge to terminate their parental rights to their child, who has required extensive counseling.

My work requires that I see people at the worst times of their lives.  Many lose their parental rights to their children.  Their children lose the only parents they have ever known.  Many children end up in placements that are very difficult.  Many foster parents are wonderful.  They often adopt the children in their placement, but they can’t adopt all of them.

I have become jaded and cynical, depressed and tired.  I have done this for 15 years.  It is just too hard to watch over and over again and stay upbeat.  I am working in a small county in a relatively small, relatively progressive state of the US. Multiply this by 50, and add fifty more for the large cities.  What is our society doing?  What is going to happen to this generation of children?  What is going to happen to our society when this generation of children become adults?  It sometimes keeps me awake at night.

This is why I have hoped to move into a new job which would allow me to have some input into policy, to be able to have impact on the front end of a child’s life, rather than at the back end, when things have gone so horribly wrong and the child is irreparably harmed.  This cycle must be broken.  I have not found such a position.  I have not seen a solution.  But what we are doing now is not working.

I have an easy life. Most of you do, as well.  Appreciate every moment of it.



  1. I think that your profession may be one of the most demanding. There are too many cases, so people do not want to hear about them. I read once that up to 80% of juvenile sexual offenders have been abused themselves and also up to 80% of them have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. It is difficult in this country because healthcare is lagging so far behind the other western countries. Up to now healthcare has been for profit and these poor, uneducated teens are not profitable. A report from 1994 (so that is quite old) said that in this country there were up to 60 million sex abuse survivors. It’s quite unbelievable and these are not numbers that the general public wishes to talk about, it’s easier to watch the Idol on TV. I feel for you, you are quite brave to work in this business, and in this country in addition, which is so much against social help – the word “social” is a hated word here, so people do not want to hear about any “social” problems. I don’t think I could work in this field, maybe in Europe, but not here. There is very little or no support for that field.

  2. Well said. Hold your head up, you were out there doing a job that 99% of the people would never think of going anywhere near. But, someone has to do it, and thanks to people like you, the folks and kids got helped. My hats off to you.

  3. In 1997, I was one of those eternal “graduating Seniors” in college. Yes, you will find something that will help change things. Law school at night?

    My eldest daughter lost four of five children either through removal of parental rights or adoption. A and M were both adopted by their foster mother who also adopted C, V, and N. C came back from Iran not at all ok in her head. V tried to rape M when they were in their teens, N is really about seven years old and is bi-polar. This family still loves all their kids as do we….tho we do have some problems with V.

    The good is…..Alex is in the Navy, and Megan is in her third year of college.

    Her battered mother has been declared high functioning, and she too is in her third year of college. She is clean, sober, and not smoking while raising a very high energy 5 year old.

    People like you do help. People like you do make a difference….for without help from people like you, none of these kids would have had a future.

  4. This sounds remarkably familiar. My wife worked in Children’s Services in Oregon for 17 years, she has done it all, intake, protective service, permanent planning, foster care certification and adoption. She has worked with police, counselors, contractors, schools… well, you obviously know the drill. She has dealt with the same frustrating issues of adoptive parents who, in their romantic naivety think that if they just “love” the child unconditionally, it will all work out. Instead the child abuses a sibling or tries to burn the house down.

    The unrelenting caseloads, the “scapegoating” of public employees and just plane compassion fatigue, caused her to throw in the towel and take early retirement.

    I don’t know what the answer is either, the problems seem insurmountable. The worsening economy and this push to have have “Socialism” and undermine the work of government is f#*king crazy!

    You can’t save these kids or society. You need to acknowledge the work you have done, where you have made some difference, and reconcile that you have done all you could. Now it is time to move on… it’s something you need to do to save yourself.

  5. What I meant by my comment about Socialism is my criticism that we as a nation are falling into Socialism… my comment wasn’t clear. My feeling is we don’t have ENOUGH social support for families. The Tea Bag people don’t know how good they have it and should try to live the way the “other half” lives sometime.

  6. You have a very tough job….demanding, emotionally draining…and yes, frustrating and depressisng. Your emotions must fly from one end of the spectrum to the other all the time. I don’t know how you couldn’t get jaded and cynical working with the lives of children in this kind of need. How exhausing is right. I have to say that I admire you ch; not everyone could do your job. You have to dig down deep to meet what is needed of you every day….and you’ve been doing it for quite a long time. I hope you DO find that other job….you certainly have earned it….and deserve it. Big kudos to you… ~Joy

  7. You got it right Robert! I live in rural Texas…..pure Tea Party Central! If these people had any clue at all about the real world, this place might be a little tolerable to this native Oregonian…..

  8. Just posted a couple of photos of one of these people… out on the street, looking lost.

    This was hard reading… not sure what can be done with such a huge number of people who are going to have a terribly hard time finding any sort of useful role in society.

  9. What you depicted is very sad and depressing. I don’t know how you are able to do it, but I’m glad you do. You post does make me appreciate my life. I’m going to go give my sleeping kids an extra kiss on the forehead now.

  10. We are lucky. Soooo lucky. I’m trying to make sure my children are equally lucky in their lives. You’ve done amazing work in a field with few rewards, and no one can blame you for needing to find a position that allows you to view the problem from a new angle.

    Social justice can come in a variety of ways. Only in recent years, when I really started to tally up the issues faced by students in my classroom, did I start to realize that just teaching at a community college helps to address the larger social problem. I try to teach thesis statements…and I walk “tweaking” students to a personal counselor so they can get help with their bi-polarism. I assign a research paper…and I take them through steps that help them process an addiction to meth.

    And so on. It’s possible to be of help in so many ways. You will find the right next thing.

  11. You have a very tough job and I want to thank you for doing it. You make the world a better place for all of us.

  12. Firstly I echo all the above comments.

    I think being involved in any such profession is incredibly demanding on all levels: but the fact is that the pool of the poor, the deprived, the abused, the neglected, the unwanted, etc. etc. is too great for just a few people to address. The old adage, that no one person can solve the problems of the world but if everyone would try to make a small difference it would really help. is still true. And you have not tried to make a small difference, you have made a HUGE difference. So be proud, you have done wonderfully but there comes a time when there is nothing left to give, and then you owe it to everyone to move on and do something to refill your batteries.

  13. I had not finished when I hit the return key by accident!
    Your posts and comments on here are very helpful, illuminative and supportive. I can see a future in writing for you: and you may be able to help a different strand of people through your writings.

    As to strategies for your clients: over here parenting classes are often prescribed by the courts for people who come within their jurisdiction. They are also being suggested for schools as part of the curriculum to help break the viscious circle of inept parenting. More and more, domestic duties such as cooking nutritious meals on a tight budget are part of these parenting classes too. But these cannot address drug habits which cause so much devastation.

    As to adoptive parents trying to unadopt their children, I cannot credit it. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Do people who wish to adopt have to negotiate a couple of years with social services in the US as they do over here? Its unbelievable.

    It is a great tribute to you that you have managed to help for so long and I hope it is some comfort to know that there will be youngsters out there who will never forget your intervention. And there will be more ‘chlosts’ coming along to pick up the baton. So time to let go, and move along. Time to renew, refuel, refresh, and follow the next path now.

  14. I’m not surprised you’re feeling “jaded and cynical” – you’ve been doing one of the toughest jobs there is.
    I second Robert the Skeptic’s last paragraph.

    We have three teenagers, all adopted, one of whom has diplegia ( a type of cerebral palsy) and who has Asperger’s as well. I cannot imagine giving up on a child, your own or an adopted one.
    But we were in our 40’s (I’m 58 now) when we took on the family and had lost most of our idealism by then. As well, we thoroughly prepared ourselves, as far as one realistically can, for what to expect. And because of the physical needs of the eldest one, we had state-provided household help for five years which was wonderful. I don’t think that level of support is there in your neck of the woods?

    We give thanks, every day, for the life we have and how lucky we are to live in our beautiful little town with a close knit supportive community.

    I wish you all the best with whatever is coming next in your life and whatever you decide to do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: