Ashley: How old are you?
Ashley: What is your profession?
P9: I'm a foster care case planner, I work in New York City.
Ashley: Because of your profession, are you connected with people that have mental illnesses?
Ashley: Why do you help these people with mental illnesses in the foster care system?
P9: Well, I'm going to be two years now at my job and I've asked myself the same question. I question why do I continue to be in this field and it's because I have compassion and I'm also very compassionate about helping others and providing help for those clients that I do work with who suffer from mental illnesses and the reasons why at times children are placed into the foster care system.
Ashley: Because you profession enables you to help those that do have mental illnesses, do you believe there is a stigma behind mental illness?
P9: I do, I think that there's not enough clarification about mental health and mental illness. I think there's been a lot of stereotypes, a lot of discrimination, things that are not clarified yet about mental illnesses. I think there's a lot of people who think that if you call them, or notate them as mental health, they think that right away you're calling them crazy. I don't think there's enough help, enough clarification for people to understand what it is to have a mental health and it needs to be taken care of and they need somebody there to advocate, such as yourself.
Ashley: When you are working, do you see people losing the opportunities to change and be a better person because they are afraid of being judged for the mental illness?
P9: It's hard to see that because they look at us as people who remove their kids, but it's not us. In jersey it's DYFS and in New York it's ACS and we're just the people on the front like to just help them and provide them the services but I think that there's such um, a stigma, stereotype or mindset that people have of foster care and people who are trying to provide services. So it's hard to see that part because there are a lot of clients that won't let you in. People won't let you in and I think that when we provide these services, there's a lot of them that decided they want that type of control, of course, why would anyway want someone to come into their home and say they have to do this and that to get your kid back. Meanwhile that child came out of you, no one brought that child into the world but you. So they want to have that little bit of control and say I don't want to go to these services.And most of the times they need to get that counseling for their mental health, because they have been through trauma, rape, being homeless, generational violence. And for example the children that come into care, also have mental health issues, like they are depressed because they aren't with their parents. So I think they lose the opportunity but as a case planner, we try to explain these things. But when you have a society that is telling you one thing, for example, who have been through the system already, telling those other parents that they don't need to use the services, they lose that benefit. Coming into foster care, as a parent or a child, no matter what, that's traumatic. It's a traumatic situation, for us too because we're going through secondary trauma, feeling the pain and seeing how if a parent just went to get help, they would get their child back. I try being the most positive person as a case planner because I'm a positive person in general and don't get me wrong I have my moments. But I have to be like that because we're surrounded by so much negativity, how can you not be thankful for your life. It's hard field because you see people who aren't doing it for the money then you see those that are doing it for the money, but those that are doing it for these kids, they give me the strength to keep staying in this field.
Ashley: How is it that you don't feel drained by so much negativity and those with mental illnesses?
P9: I have my days, it can be draining, but you have to remind yourself that you have to take the personal out of it because at the end of the day you're just a person trying to provide this to someone. It's a good question because I even wonder how I'm still doing what I do despite all of the negativity.
Ashley: Because you work with clients that at times have mental illnesses, what would you tell the world?
P9: I'd first tell you to make sure you look up information and understand it There all different, so many disorders, so many illnesses. Even therapists and psychologist can't define all of them if you know what I mean. Um, I would say don't judge the person by their appearance, um it's important to get to know the person and where they are coming from. For example I have to think about not only the person, but the allegations against them and I have to ask, what happened that day that your kids came into care. What was caused it to happen, what has happened in your past, and caused you to be where you are now. It's about getting to know the person and not just saying oh they show signs of x, y,z. You have to see who they are and what they've been through. Don't focus on the media and the school shootings there is more to it than that for that person to come to that situation. There are so many broken systems, whether its foster care, mental health, education system. There is so many things that need to be fixed. Especially our soldiers that are coming back with PTSD and all these disorders and are not receiving those services who end up homeless. So I think there are a lot of things that have to be done.
Ashley: Because you work in foster care, do you believe the system for mental health is helping or hurting?
P9: People try to outsmart the system and they might but guess what the kids come right back in, why? Because there was something there that was never fixed, whether its mental health or something else that leads up to mental illness. I think that there are a lot of things that are being done outside because we refer clients outside of the agency to receive services but it depends whether or not on the person on the outside, for example, the therapists if they are helping. So there is a lot of um, things to it. I think its helpful but I think there is something more that is needed to be done. Do I know what that is, I don't. But hopefully I find it out while I'm working.
Ashley: If you could tell someone with a mental illness anything, what would you tell them?
P9: Um, don't give up, continue to look for that light. You're gonna have good days and you're gonna have bad days, we're not always gonna be happy. When you have your downfall, it's how you get back up from there. Whether its having to pull teeth out to get out of that bed that day and get outside and see the sunlight. And just continue on, don't allow something that you're being categories by to kill you. Allow yourself to kill that and continue on because we only have one life to life. And we can look at all the negativity but what will it do for us,you messed up, that's fine, just get up and keep going.