Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's been kind of a rough week...

I mean, things could have been worse. However, having a surgical procedure done (albeit outpatient) to get skin cancer removed (albeit of the least severe variety) and having to have a skin graft done as a bonus is not a fun way to start off the week. I'm not worried about it very much, since the surgical procedure I had done has over a 99% success rate for the particular type of skin cancer I had removed, but it still wasn't a fun Monday by any stretch of the imagination.

Recovery is going ok. It's kind of a pain in the ass to take a shower and not get the bandage wet, so I got a lovely stylish shower cap at the local CVS store, in an area of the store where I have NEVER walked through before during my previous trips there. The area where the skin graft was done hurt like the dickens when the anesthetic wore off, and the doc didn't want me using anything stronger than Tylenol, but it is feeling better now, although I do think taking some time off from work is a good idea. I always instinctively put the phone to my left ear (which is the one that got operated on) and I imagine repeated banging of the phone against said ear could be detrimental to the skin graft successfully grafting. Of course, you might say, I could just be a man about it and remember to only put the phone to my RIGHT ear, but when you've been doing things the same way for over a decade, habits are hard to break. I think that by next week it will have healed enough that I can answer the phone with either ear safely.

My volunteer job did intrude on my recovery this week. I guess I've never really talked about what my volunteer job entails here before. For the past year or so, I've acted as a court appointed special advocate for kids in the foster care system. As a volunteer, I only work one case at a time, which helps the kids, their parents, and their foster parents with a sense of continuity. I can also visit the foster homes personally and verify that things are going well for the kids on my case. Sometimes we get to do fun stuff with the kids (I took them out for pizza one time, for example) but mostly we're there to be an extra set of eyes and an extra voice for the kids best interests. We also can be called upon to testify in court when a final determination for the kids placement takes place.

The case I was working had four elementary school age kids. Nothing like a challenge for my first time! We do work with professionals at the volunteer agency who assist us with advice, phone calls, and in the writing of court reports, which helps immensely. I don't know if I did as many things as I possibly could for the kids whose case I was assigned to, but I think I did help some. Just having a single person there through the majority of the process is a big help, since during the time I was on the case, there were three different CPS (Child Protective Services) caseworkers assigned to it. They were all good at their jobs, but everyone in CPS is overworked to some degree. Anyhow...last week was the final court hearing.

I can't go into details about the case, obviously, but the parents involved had not completed (or even really started) their family plan of service in order to be reunited with their children. In Texas, they have to have done this within a year, or eighteen months at a maximum if the judge extends it. It had been eighteen months since the kids were taken into CPS custody, and last week in court, the parents' rights were terminated.

Today was scheduled as the final visit for one of the parents, their mother, to see her kids. I suppose I could have called in sick for this, as I'm still healing from my surgical fun, but I felt kind of duty-bound to be there and see things through to the end. (Also, there was no answering of the phone involved.) One of the kids asked about the bandage on my ear, and I just said I'd had to have something removed at the doctor, since saying the word "cancer" seems to really scare people (especially kids.) The first part of the visit, with the kids' grandparents, went pretty well. Then the second part of the visit started, when their mother showed up...

I have a limited amount of sympathy for a parent who is ordered by the court to show they are a suitable parent and completely squanders that opportunity. That being said, it was REALLY hard to watch what will probably be her final visit with her kids for the forseeable future. She had made each of them a small scrapbook and read it to them, got lots of pictures, and did a lot of crying. Her sister was there for moral support, and she cried some herself, as did the kids.

The CPS worker assigned to their case was in court today, and my volunteer coordinator was busy with another case as well, so the CPS supervisor asked me to monitor the visit and try to make sure the mother didn't promise the kids anything impossible (like that she'd somehow manage to get the kids back someday.) So, I got to sit there and watch. The whole visit with their mother only took about an hour, but it felt much longer to me.

I'm not going overboard, and I'm not driving anywhere, and I'm no longer on any prescription please pardon me if I have a stiff drink tonight and try and wind down a little. I do admire all the people who work in CPS, as frustrated as I might get sometimes with that agency and its bureaucracy. For the most part, they're overwhelmingly dedicated people doing an extremely tough job. This weekend, I plan on relaxing and taking it very easy. If I do venture anywhere outside, you can be sure I'll wear sunscreen.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.


Suldog said...

You're a good guy, Chuck. I hope you knew that already.

Why did the doc not want you on anything stronger? Get another doc!!! When pain can be obliviated, it should be. No excuses.

Merujo said...

Here's to a much better week this time 'round! I'll raise a glass of cheap Australian red in your direction this evening! Cheers!!

Chuck said...

Suldog - I'm not sure why nothing stronger was recommended, but the worst of the pain went away after about two days.

Merujo - Thanks for your good wishes! This week is looking better already.