~Playing Tooth Fairy for a child who will likely always remain in locked, secure facilities.
~Explaining to a child why and how their mother found Jesus in jail…for the twelfth time…after yet another round of trafficking.
~Trying to reason with a nine-year old that they can, and should, use their coping skills instead of demanding an injection every day.
~Helping a belligerent autistic child understand that an outing restriction for making racist remarks is less consequence and more protection, because folks in town might not take too well to such statements.
~Having to tell a seven-year old they can’t go out and play…for a month…because they are a flight risk for trying to run away from their last placement eighteen times.
~French braiding a child’s hair while gently explaining what hope looks like, feels like, and why one should never give up.
~Saying goodbye to a child after two years, knowing they’re at their best, and their best still isn’t good enough for the rest of the world.
~Welcoming a new child who inherited both parents’ severe mental illnesses, and is already on several medications not approved by the FDA for children under 18…and trying to figure out what might be done instead.
~Tucking in a child who is haunted by the voices that won’t leave him alone inside his head, all night long, the intermittent wailing depriving others of their sleep.
~Helping a tiny child who refuses to speak, to find other ways to express themselves besides self-harming, drawing blood to release the pain from the inside out.
~Discerning whether the sock tied around the neck was a reactive gesture of anger, or a genuine intent to end their young life.
~Allowing a child to repeatedly cheat at cards in endless rounds of War, so they can understand that they are a winner, no matter how the game goes, no matter how many risks of losing they face, and no matter how many aces and jokers one’s opponent may hold in their hand.
~Teaching a child not to be sexually inappropriate when the man waxing the floors goes by.
~Building a fort with chairs and blankets, then going inside and hearing stories that no child should ever know to tell.
~Asking a child to create at least five works of art to replace the bare spot on the wall where they tore off the entire six-foot bulletin board in a three-second rampage of rage.
~Trying to help a child figure out if the man they saw under the bridge might have been their homeless father, or not.
~Offering a warm hug five minutes after being called every vulgar name in the book.
~Helping a child write an angry letter to their molester, tearing up the letter into tiny pieces, and drowning the pieces in a lake, together.
~Teaching a child how their compulsive lying hurts others as much as they were hurt by their parents’ perpetual broken promises.
~Watching and waiting until a child is finished tipping over fourteen chairs which are not designed to be able to be tipped over, to help them verbalize their anger at the world, instead.
~Finding excuses for parents who make excuses as to why they never call or visit their child in the hospital.
~Wiping the searing tears and stroking the wild hair of a bewildered, rageful child who is being physically prevented from harming themselves or others.
~Promising a child a trip to McDonald’s after they were unable to go out for weeks due to dangerous behavior…and seeing their joy when the promise was fulfilled. Those Happy Meals are the happiest of all!
~Helping the state word a court report to properly reflect a parent’s chronic neglect.
~Seeing a child gain victory over their demons, and finally, after months or years, be able to be turned back out to society. And passing the tissue to the staff who helped raise the child and taught the child to function again, as they unlock the door and show the child their new freedom.
~Finding solutions for a teacher who is trying to teach a disruptive child who will never be allowed in a typical school setting.
~Lying on the grass with a child, watching the clouds change form, and teaching them to have the courage to dream and hope again.
~Vandalizing (when no one was looking) a spot of wall where an angry child peeled the paint, by using crayon to draw in the lines because the bare spot looked vaguely like a dinosaur, giving it a smile and bright eyes, with comment bubbles over his head encouraging the children to be nice.
~Reading a story about a flower that got stuck in a crack and couldn’t grow very well, until a gardener replanted it and fertilized it and watered it, allowing it to blossom and see the sun again.
~After a year, figuring out that the misbehavior at bedtime once served a legitimate function, since going to sleep represents the terror of knowing that the sexual abuse would start on the night shift after mom left for work.
~Talking a child out of crawling into the trash can, because that is where they feel like putting themselves, because that is the message they consistently got about their worth and value from those previously caring for them. Clarifying what belongs in the trash, and what is worthy of Saving.
~Explaining why smuggling in burned CDs of gangsta rap is not helpful toward reaching one’s treatment goals.
~Coaching a child to maintain self-control when another child is provoking them…don’t lose your points, stay focused on your goal to get out of here, think of your people, shoot for that special outing, walk away, it’s not worth it, one of y’all has to man up and stay in control, might as well be you. Etc. Etc.
~Trying to teach morals around shoot-in-the-foot laws, such as why a remorseful child can’t help patch the hole they punched in the wall (child labor), use their allowance when they offer to pay for their roommate’s toy they flushed down the toilet (child allowance regulations), or donate outgrown clothes to the child down the hall (unlawful transfer of state property).
~Seeing who can go higher on the playground swings.
~Explaining to a child why their grandparent is dying, and holding their hand after the death.
~Having to confiscate a child’s security blanket for a night because they tried to hang themselves with it.
~Having a child tape a piece of art to the office door that says, “Thank you for helping me…”