Dear Children in DFS, Foster Care & Residential Programs,
On behalf of the entire social work system, on behalf of every case worker, social worker, Guardian Ad Litem, Psych Nurse, Therapist, Psychiatrist, Behavioral Aide, School Aide, Behavioral Interventionist, and every other mental health worker you have ever interacted with during your stay in residential or outpatient “therapeutic” program placements—
I am Sorry.
I am sorry that today I saw your face on the internet because you are in jail with a $10,000 bond for possession of a controlled substance, theft, and resisting arrest. I am sorry you are pregnant and homeless wandering the city streets high on meth. I am sorry you are pregnant with your fourth child from your fourth lover and will be living off the government for the rest of your life because we felt it more important to teach you not to curse than how to use a condom or get a job.
I am sorry you don’t understand that it is unacceptable to not attend school because we didn’t make you go. I am sorry we watched you cut your body with whatever you could find and called it “coping” until you bled so much the carpet was stained with your suicidal blood. I am sorry that we let you punch us, perforate our veins with your teeth, give us concussions, pull out our hair, throw us down the stairs, and cover our bodies in bruises and lacerations. I am sorry that we let you assault us, and did not press charges. I am sorry that we cannot press charges, or defend ourselves in a court of law, because we have signed documents to protect your privacy.
I am sorry we placed you in a cold, cement, six by six foot room and injected tranquilizers into your backside time after time when we felt our verbal and physical restraints would no longer suffice.
I am sorry we have labeled you. I am sorry we call you oppositional defiant when your parents do not know how to say “no,” and then proceed to add ADHD and any other words that mean we can put you on mood stabilizers, anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. I am sorry we have pumped you so full of medication we have stripped you of your personality. I am sorry we felt it more important to have a controlled classroom than children with feelings and creativity and vigor and heart.
I am sorry we have allowed you to believe you may do as you please, live as you please, harm as you please, as long as you are not yet eighteen years of age. I am sorry that we allowed you to believe if you continue to fail we will continue to catch you.
We will not.
We will not catch you. One day no one will try to wake you up seven times in the morning to get you to work on time. One day no one will cook for you when you are hungry, and clean up your mess when you don’t feel like doing it yourself. One day when you hit someone, they will press charges and you will end up behind bars. One day when you curse at someone because you are “triggered”—you will lose your job and your ability to provide for yourself and your children.
We will do better.
We will teach you more. We will teach you how to cook and not just how to preheat the oven. We will teach you about healthy lifestyles and the importance of getting outside. We will teach you what it means to look outside yourselves. We will take you to places and show you lives of others who have hurt just as you have. We will expose you to people who are also in pain. People who are hungry. People who are damaged. People who think they are beyond hope.
We will guarantee that when you leave our facility it will be not because you were too difficult or “have utilized all available resources,” but because you are ready to go. Because we are sure you will succeed beyond what you ever thought possible.
I promise that we will not only speak for you—we will help you to find your voice.
One day the world will know. I hope you believe it to be true. And if you don’t, one day you will see for yourself. There are half a million of you. In the system. Much of the world does not know you exist. Much of America does not know you exist. They do not know your stories.
I promise we will tell them.