When Stephanie was three years old her parents passed away, and she entered the world of foster care. At age 10, she stayed with foster caregivers who had overpowering personalities and were very good at saying the right things to social workers. Stephanie, who was a scared 10-year-old, did develop a friendship with a certain kind social worker, but she found she couldn't tell him her real experience because of her overpowering foster caregivers. The social worker wasn't exactly at fault; he believed what he was told and what he saw. However, there were plenty of things Stephanie couldn't tell him and he did not see.
This experience set the stage for Stephanie's dream to become a social worker herself. Later in her life, she realized she wanted to really, truly understand children and their situations. She felt that she might have been brave enough to speak truthfully to social workers if they had sought to understand her real situation.
A Set Back
At age 14, Stephanie had a baby. The court took her away from Stephanie because she was a looked-after child herself who had no voice in the system. For nine years Stephanie had no custody over her child. Nobody gave her a parenting assessment. She did nothing wrong. She simply had no voice to let anyone know what she wanted.
Studying to Be a Social Worker
Stephanie wanted to do better than her own social workers. She felt her life experiences would prove valuable in understanding children, and they did (and still do), but during school she realized how difficult it was to hear about her own issues in class lectures. When her teachers talked about issues like bereavement, abuse, loss, and the care system, Stephanie realized how much she had to learn about herself before she could help others. She needed support to get through these tough mental struggles, so she sought help through counseling and friends. Stephanie says, "I think it's imperative for all in social work to understand themselves."
Putting Experience into Practice
Decades later, Stephanie practices what she lived and what she learned. She knows that children's voices can be oppressed, and she uses that knowledge to identify from the child's perspective. Stephanie is currently a fostering placement social worker, and her story is an inspiration to many.
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