A few days ago I took some time to watch the movie Losing Isaiah. There was a certain sense of urgency as Netflix was about to take it off in order to make room for more movies. I first saw the movie at my grandparents house in Michigan. I remember renting it with my very own library card when I was 9 or 10 and watching it in the living room sprawled out on the very comfortable carpet. I remember being happy in the end that the baby was returned to his biological mother. However, this time I watched the movie with a different perspective. One that’s been informed by several years of being a social worker and working with families and kids. The movie brings up some interesting questions that are still relevant today. A mother abandons her baby in a trash can. The baby is born addicted to drugs because she used substance while pregnant. A kind social worker at the hospital he is transported to adopts him. She and her family raise him as her own. Meanwhile, the baby’s mother gets her life together after finally becoming sober and decides that she wants him back because he’s her child and she never received notice that her parental rights were being terminated. So there’s a lengthy court battle where bio-mother’s lawyer insists that black babies need to be with their black mothers. However, there is a marked difference between the income of biological mother versus that of the family that has adopted the child. The life that he lives with his adopted family is vastly different than the one that his bio-mother can finance. The movie ends with full custody being given to the bio-mother who soon realizes that she needs additional support so she reaches a hesitant agreement with her son’s adoptive mother. There are certain situations where I don’t think people should be allowed to have a do over. I don’t think that any child should be denied access to their family of origin but primary custody should have remained with the adoptive parents until the child was old enough to make a decision. I’ve met a good amount of parents who have adopted kids and then decided that they were too hard as a result decided to relinquish custody back to the state. I’ve worked with parents who have voluntarily given up custody of their children because they felt powerless and felt that their lives or the lives of the other children in the home were at risk. It’s a hard decision to make. My whole point is that kids shouldn’t be taken out of a loving, stable, and safe environment because their bio-parent decides that it’s for the best. There were other options that would have allowed Isaiah to stay where he was happy. Yes, children can be resilient and they can recover but there’s no need to inflict that trauma on a child and mess up his primary attachment so that he can be with a black parent. No reason. It’s cruel and unnecessary.
The training to become a social worker is arduous, demanding, and complex. What isn’t always stressed enough are the issues of burnout, compassion fatigue, and the need for self care in the profession of social work.
I saw this article and thought about how applicable it is to my life right now. As someone who works in the field, this has to be one of the best articles I’ve read on the reality of burnout for social workers that is typically ignored. My absolute favorite quote from the author: “In our work, although we are surrounded by people all day long, there is not a balanced give and take. Concentration is on clients, not ourselves. In the truest sense, we are alone—we are the givers, and our fulfillment comes from seeing the growth, hope, and new direction in those with whom we are privileged to work.” I don’t think that truer words have ever been spoken. I’m a huge proponent of self-care but admittedly have a hard time taking my own advice. It’s easier said than done when you are by nature a giver and you put the best interests of others before yours and don’t impose your opinions on others deliberately on a daily basis. Any deviation from this can be self-perceived as selfishness. However, the article brings home the fact that self-care is necessary because it helps you to operate from a place of being okay. Still have a lot to learn in that department.