We’re marking February as a month of prayer (read more about why this is important here). Join us each week as we pray for a different aspect of the child welfare system and our call to care for children and families. You can read last week’s post here.
The foster care system in our city is made up of hundreds of social workers, police officers, court officers, counselors, and other government and service providers. This week, we are praying for those who have chosen to make a career out of caring for children and ensuring they have a safe place to live and thrive. And if you’re one of these people, we are grateful for you and your work!
For this week, we talked to a local DC social worker about the challenges she faces and what she needs from her community. Here’s what she had to say:
“A few weeks ago, I met someone and we we were small talking. He asked my husband and I both what we do and he was happy to chat with my husband about the law. And then he awkwardly turned to me with the oh-too-familiar-sympathetic-head-nod and said,’Wow, I don’t know how do you what you do,’ and asked, ‘How do you do it?’ I paused, truly caught in the depth of the suffering I spend all day wading through, and took a moment before laughing awkwardly and shrugging, unable to come up with anything to say. The guy looked at me again and said, ‘What does social work do to you? My sister has been a social worker for 6 years and she gets that same vacant look in her eye when you ask her about it.’
In the “ReMoved” video, pay attention to the social workers face at 4:16, 5:04. I know that look. The resignation, the punched-in-the-gut, I’m trying not to cry because I have to be strong, but I’ve also built a wall to protect myself so it’s not hurting as much as it will hurt when I’m in the car on the way home.
But I have to do what I do. I have to jump in, I have to fight, I don’t have a choice. As a firefighter runs into the burning building, I dive into the brokenness and hurt of a family ripped apart, of innocence torn away, of the system that is so clogged down and distorted that it does the exact opposite of what it was intended to do. And while I go in willingly, sometimes I get stuck there. The darkness swallows me, I give too much of my heart away, and I am too weary to climb out. My work invades my dreams and steals my sleep. My to-do list grows faster than I can keep up with, and every phone call brings more bad news. And yet, I must press on. I must give a voice to the children and families who are overlooked, forgotten, undeserved.
Being a social worker in DC, the contradictions and contrast of the Capital city are staggering. I gaze at the iconic skyline as I drive to homes without running water. I walk past museums and federal buildings to the hollow halls of the courthouse where lives are mutilated more often than they are healed. I spend the day working with a child whose mother has abandoned her, and who has been in eight foster homes in the past year, and then I go to happy hour where it’s all about who you know and what you do, and the ‘I’m a social worker’ line gets that awkward silence and a quick dodge out of the conversation. Occasionally someone will do that familiar, sympathetic nod and say, ‘Wow, that’s hard work, I could never do it.’ I don’t want sympathy, I don’t want pity or misunderstanding or ignorance. What I want is for these people to understand if they saw the world I did, they would have no choice but to do the work.. And, I don’t need people to remind me how hard the work I do is — I am fully aware of that. I don’t need people to tell me I’m a saint — I know how often I fail my clients. What I do need is someone to smile at me, to encourage me, to not shy away from the hard places and to say, ‘What you’re doing is important and it matters. I’m so glad you’re there, keep up the good work.’ I probably won’t believe it at the time, but it might seep in, and in the cold moments of sleeplessness, or the vulnerable moments of a long run, maybe it would sneak back up on me as a glimmer of hope in the midst of despair.”
This week, will you pray with us for:
- Social workers and other front-line workers: Pray that they would do their jobs with patience, empathy, and wisdom. Pray that God would help them endure through difficult days, equip them as they face new challenges, and encourage them as they work with families and children who in tough situations.
- Government employees: Pray that they would work with children’s needs first and foremost in their minds, and that the people of DC would have wisdom in choosing local government leaders. Pray that each government worker would be given the resources needed to protect vulnerable children in our city, and strengthened as they deal with hard situations.
- Child and Families Services Agency (CFSA): CFSA is the government agency that oversees DC’s foster care system. Pray that each employee there would be moved by compassion for the children and families they serve. Pray for Director Raymond Davidson as he leads CFSA and pray for wisdom as he makes decisions and policies that affect so many. Pray for encouragement and strength for the Deputy Directors, supervisors, assistants, and each employee who makes CFSA run.
- Service providers and non-profits: There are many private non-profit organizations serving kids and families in DC. These groups range from foster care agencies, to mentor organizations, to advocacy groups. Thank God and pray for each citizen serving DC’s children. Pray that God would sustain them as they not only do the hard work of serving children, but also run organizations and find funding. As these groups address gaps in the foster care system, prayer that they get the resources they need, whether that’s funding or volunteers.
- Police, EMS, and first responders: Pray that they would work unto the Lord, protecting and helping families and children in crisis, and ensuring that children would get the care they need. Pray for their safety and for wisdom as they make quick decisions in tense situations.
Here are some resources to learn more about how government agencies, social workers, and the church interact:
Listen to Dr. Deb Shropshire talk about her powerful experiences as a pediatrician called to the child welfare system and how she remember’s God’s promise amidst so much brokenness:
Hear from Dr. Sharon Ford on why the government needs the church to cross the aisle, learn about the child welfare system, and serve children in foster care:
Thank you to Megan Roberts for her help with this post!