When people hear that I work in Child Welfare, with children who have been abused and/or neglected, the response is almost always “I could never do that” or “I don’t know how you do that”. I get it, I really do. Hearing stories of abuse or neglect is hard, and it’s heartbreaking. It hurts to see kids get taken away from the parents they love regardless of the abuse/neglect. It hurts when I have to bring a child to a Psychiatric unit for hospitalization or when a parent has to leave their kids to go into drug treatment. It even hurts when I read the referrals I get for new cases. Certain scenarios still bring me to tears, even after 19 years. I am thankful that this happens, because it means my heart hasn’t hardened due to all I have seen and heard. Not much surprises me any more unfortunately, but it’s still hard to hear. So yes, due to the nature of what I do, I understand why people say the above things. The hard part for me is that I am not always sure I know how to respond to this. I don’t have a pretty answer tied up with a bow.
Here’s my nimble attempt: I truly believe that we are all God’s children; that people are fallible; that while most people know right from wrong, they don’t always have the skills to do the right thing – it wasn’t modeled for them. Ever. I believe that for addics, their addiction controls so much of what they do; that some people have mental health issues that have gone unaddressed; that some people have experienced abuse themselves, and they don’t know how to stop the cycle of abuse. I believe that most people don’t become parents and have the intention of hurting their children in any way. I also believe that people can change; that people deserve to be shown grace; that perhaps some fall into the category of “the least of these”. You know, the ones the Bible calls us to love and care for.
I want people to know that there is hope for them. I want people to know that they are not bad because they made bad choices. I want people to know they can change. Maybe they have never been told they have strengths. Maybe they have never really been listened to or truly felt cared for. It’s not my place to judge them. I don’t know their story at first, but it is my job to listen and to learn and to be there for them. It is my job to encourage them along the way.
And then there are the kids. These kids need someone on their side. They need someone they can trust. They may need someone to show love and care. They need to feel safe. They need to know it’s not their fault. It is my job to tell them they are beautiful, and smart and funny and loved. It is my job to keep them safe.
God has given me a great passion for the parents and children who have experienced abuse/neglect. I am thankful for the God given gifts I have to be able to do this job day in and day out, because it is hard.
I think the bottom line though, goes back to the passion that I feel. There are so many issues in today’s world that need to be addressed. I am so thankful I have friends who are working with the realities of sex trafficking, substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health issues, and so on. They are passionate about those things. I am passionate about caring for abused and neglected kids and their parents. That is the burden that has been laid on my heart. It is my calling.
I pray you find your passion.
- Wendy Payne ECFA