Monday, August 29, 2011

A Local Hero in Disguise

By: Madelaine Martin

If we’re lucky, we are born into a family with undivided love and attention. Unfortunately, though, we cannot choose our families or the life we are given. Sometimes people are born with abusive and neglectful parents where there is little escape, little hope, and little future. This is where Maureen Nancey (name changed to maintain privacy), a social worker in Lowell, Massachusetts, comes to the rescue.

Maureen Nancey tries to help unfit, abusive, and/or neglectful parents find a way to maintaining appropriate living situations. If the parents are unable to become suitable guardians for their children, then Maureen must make the most difficult decision her job entails: Maureen must take the children away from their biological parents, and put them in a home where they will be treated fairly.

“You wouldn’t believe some of the people that I have to deal with,” says Maureen. Sometimes Maureen is lucky and is called to investigate a family due to mere protocol, but sometimes things get really ugly. “I go to some of these people’s houses,” she says, “and this woman is beaten up by some man, and the woman turns out to be the same person I dealt with a year ago, but she’s with a different guy.”

The worst part about her job is not walking into a house with abusive adults, unfortunately. Maureen finds the most difficult circumstances to be with parents whose children have witnessed everything, who have been apart of the abuse, or who have been completely neglected. “It gets really tough when kids are involved,” she says, “that’s never easy.” Maureen has two children of her own, and could never imagine them being a part of something so horrible.

The first step in Maureen’s job is called an investigation. When there is a police report involving domestic abuse or something similar, Maureen goes to the household and investigates the report. She finds out the details of the family, if there are children involved, etc.

“Most people think that because I’m a social worker, I deal with kids,” Maureen says. “In reality, I mainly deal with their parents. When those parents are found unfit as guardians for the children, that’s when I become involved with the kids.”

In an investigation, Maureen notes the behavior of the parents, she notes the drug use of the parents, and she notes the amount of food in the home; basically, Maureen takes note of everything that will help assess the living situation of the family – good or bad.

If the living situation does not seem appropriate, Maureen has to then visit the family regularly in order to give a more in-depth assessment of the living situation. During these visits, Maureen talks to the parents about what they should and should not be doing (i.e. they should be cleaning their house, they should not be doing drugs – seems like common sense, but there are some adults who just don’t get it).

Sometimes, the abuse and neglect of a child can be far more dramatic than the examples given. If you’ve ever read the book “The Lost Boy,” or, “A Child Called It,” written by Dave Pelzer, you will get a glimpse of the circumstances Maureen has had to deal with as a social worker. Unfortunately, books about abuse and neglect are not exaggerated. Unfortunately, there are children who suffer from abuse and neglect every day, and social workers like Maureen have to make a case and fight for those children to be separated from their biological parents – so that the children can have a chance to live a decent life.

If an adult does become labeled as an unfit guardian, Maureen is obligated to take the child away from the situation and into a safe environment. At this point, Maureen becomes that child’s primary caregiver. Although the she is not their foster mother, she is still in control of where that child goes and what that child does. As you could imagine, this is far from an easy task. “Once they are in my care, I literally have to approve these kids to go to the bathroom,” says Maureen.

Maureen only takes children away from their parents at the most extreme circumstances. She gives the parents chance after chance to change their lifestyles and to prove that they can take care of their own children. Sadly, though, some parents cannot even take care of themselves. Sadly, some parents cannot find the motivation to change their lifestyles in order to keep their kids safe.

Maureen is far from a home wrecker. She saves children’s lives day after day by assessing the extremity of a child’s abuse or neglect. Maureen takes children out of horrible situations, and finds ways to put them in better homes with better people. In some ways, Maureen is nothing but a local hero to the children who need her most.

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