Sunday, May 3, 2009

Noble Intentions - Help or Harm?

Have you ever tried to help someone and then feel like you did them more harm then good? When children are removed from abusive homes does that guarantee a better life and better outcomes for them? According to the research I have been doing over the last week the answer is no. There is actually some research that shows that children who are taken from their marginally abusive home have higher rates of early pregnancy, lower education levels and higher incidents of mental illness then those who are left in their homes. My own experience in foster care tells me that sometimes even the harm that is done when the intention was noble can have good results.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to a very dear person in my life who had lived with me as a foster child. I had so wanted to help her and when she left it was a terrible leaving. My ex-husband did not want to risk allegations against himself by having her stay with us and when the decision was made, her case worker did not allow me to talk with her about what was happening or why. The DHHS worker picked her up from school and I never spoke with her agian until now, 14 years later. My noble intention when she came to live with us was to help her know that she was a bright, beautiful young woman with all the potential in the world. When she left I felt I failed her. When I would think of her, I would almost always feel a twinge of guilt and send a silent prayer wishing her well. Did I harm her? What lessons did she learn by my abandonment of her (that is what it fel like to me), that she would be abandoned, sent away if she wasn't perfect. Even though my intentions were good, I did not think through before she came to live with us how I could harm her if it didn't work out. It was not even a possibility in my mind.

I was happy to hear that her memories of being with me and of me were almost all good. She remembered Easter egg hunts and me helping her with her homework. She remembered things I told her including, "make good choices" and "you CAN do it". Where I thought because she left I failed, she felt grateful for the time we did have together. She was able to see past my flaws and inability to hold on and see my noble intention which was to love her and help her see her own possibility. The sytem was not kind to her and despite that she transcended (went above and beyond) what I could have dreamed for her. She is still a bright, beautiful and loveable young woman, now with a loving family of her own.

What are your noble intentions? Can you see your workers noble intentions? People do not get into CPS work or become therapists because they want to steal children or rip families apart. Most of us get into the field because of our own "Pscyhic Scar". I became a social worker because one of my deepest longings it to take away the heart pains that come from being alive and experiencing life. No one is immune to the whacks that life brings. However, we are all able if we are willing to learn how to skillfully deal with them.

I choose to look past the words and the actions and truly look into the noble intentions that drive those I love and those I work with. Can you?

~ Deb

Resources: Book Recommendation : Stress Free For Good by My Friend Fred - Dr. Fred Luskin