I always dread the first day back to work after a major holiday. I know, getting back to the daily grind is hard for everyone, but when you work with kids in foster care, the first business day after a holiday takes on a whole new meaning. Why? Because holidays are prime times for excess--people drink to excess, they relapse on drugs because those drugs are available. And then because they've done that, they make other poor choices, like driving drunk with the kids in the car or beating up their spouse. Which usually means the authorities became involved, which usually means the kids end up being placed in foster care. When it comes to teens, the holidays are always a prime time for placement into residential treatment facilities due to severe depression and/or suicide attempts.
One year, I had a sibling group come into care just after Thanksgiving. We later found out that the kids were alone on Thanksgiving--their parents had just left a few days before the holiday and hadn't come back, and hadn't left food in the house. On Monday, the older siblings packed up the younger siblings and took them to school with them because they didn't know what else to do. There wasn't a foster home available to take a group of siblings that size, so the kids were split up. A few days later, I received a fax from one of the kids' new teachers--the class had written letters to Santa, and that elementary school aged child had written that for Christmas, he wanted his parents to stop drinking so that he could see his family on Christmas.
For the most part, I handle the hard reality of my job pretty well. I read about horrific abuse and neglect every day, and of course, that is always hard. But in doing the job long enough, you have to learn how to compartmentalize so that when you come home, you can turn "off" that portion of your brain. It's hard, and sometimes people think I'm callous and jaded when I tell them that for the most part, when I get home, I don't think about cases. But the one time that I have a hard time "turning off" is always around the holidays, because working where I do puts the holidays in a whole new perspective. Sometimes, thinking about what Thanksgiving or Christmas was like for those kids just makes me so angry at the parents. Sometimes, I just want to shake them and ask "Was that hit really worth having your child placed in foster care on Christmas? Don't you realize that for them Christmas isn't magic anymore--it will always be the day they were taken away?!" I just don't understand it sometimes.
Anyway. I'm okay. I just had to ramble a little bit, so that now I CAN move on to the rest of my night. Sorry for rambling and being a Debbie Downer...but thanks for listening/reading!