It’s easy to overlook the horrors that occur on a daily basis within our own community. The image of Pasadena as an extraordinary place has been well-developed, reinforced by the magical New Year’s Tournament of Rose Parade televised throughout the country and beyond. The impression of an enviably sunny paradise is quickly dispelled after reading a recent article published in Los Angeles Magazine about the heroic work of emergency response social workers assigned to the Pasadena office of the Department of Children and Family Services. Pasadena is a wonderful community, offering an excellent place to live and work. However, even in a place of such good fortune, there is the sad reality of abuse and neglect rooted in poverty, addiction, and family dysfunction.
After all the front page stories of a broken foster care system characterized by neglectful foster parents and incompetent social workers, this article finally tells the story of the vast majority of social workers who tirelessly serve as effective and compassionate caregivers for children endangered by families fractured because of untold traumas. It recounts how each day social workers address the brutal reality of child endangerment, balancing a child’s safety and well-being against the unfortunate tragedy of a family incapacitated, usually because of addiction. Although it is imperative to err on the side of caution, the trauma resulting in separation from a parent weighs heavily. The resourcefulness required to successfully help a child and their family through this kind of most stressful event is remarkable. The emotional toll on these workers is extensive, making their task even more arduous.
The stories of these social workers and the profiles of those they serve are unfortunately all too familiar to us at Hillsides. Walking through the campus, I often see our therapist taking a moment to check in with a resident between therapy sessions, helping the child to stay connected as progress is made on healing lingering trauma. Unlike the emergency response workers who usually never learn the long-term fate of a child, we are often an important stop for children and youth who have been neglected or abused, and hopefully the last stop before a more stable solution can be developed, ideally this means reunification with parents or other family members. While the road to permanency can resemble the legendary gridlock of LA traffic, filled with abrupt and slow movement, we believe it is the best final destination.
Whether it be a rescue in a moment of crisis, or the patient, consistent care offered to a child and family in therapy, the services provided by social workers and therapists are indispensable to assure the safety and long-term well-being of the most vulnerable recipients of services through the child welfare system. Without the fine and brave workers depicted in this article and the extraordinary therapists and other staff we are so fortunate to employ at Hillsides, the plight of these children, who are traumatized by their past, and their families would be unimaginable. In spite of the significant challenges of an inadequately funded system of care, these dedicated men and woman are undeterred in their resolve to keep our children safe and accompany them and their families on a path to restoration and hope. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those who embrace a profession that so cavalierly can be categorized as ineffective. Next time you have the privilege of meeting a social worker or therapist, be sure to say thank you for all those children and families who lives have been improved because of their compassionate care.