Caseworker Conversations: One Person Can Make a Difference
This blog is part of a series of blogs including “Caseworker Conversations” highlighting the vital role caseworkers play in preventing child abuse and neglect in Colorado; as well as real stories like the one below from Janelle who have experienced the guidance and support of a caseworker, firsthand. Janelle and Toilynn, her former foster care coordinator who is mentioned, have also chosen to share their story in a TV commercial as part of the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness Campaign. Check it out HERE.
One Person Can Make a Difference
Growing up, Janelle and her brothers and sisters had a lot going against them. Their parents were both alcoholics and drug addicts. At times the family was homeless or living in their car with little or no food. Other times the kids stayed with family when their parents disappeared for awhile. Once her parents woke her and her siblings in the middle of the night and drove them all to California to live for a short time. When she was 10 years old, Janelle and her siblings were moved into separate foster care placements. After a short time, she was reunited with one of her sisters.
Over the next couple of years, Janelle and her sister had caseworkers that supported them but none they really felt connected to until they met Toilynn, her foster family support provider. Sometimes just one person can really make a difference in another person’s life. For Janelle, that person was Toilynn. “Toi was a consistent, positive force in my life,” shared Janelle. “She got to know me individually. We'd visit the park or just share stories or go to the local coffee shop. I still remember my first mint turtle coffee from that shop.”
“Toi sometimes took photos of my sister and me when she was visiting or we were just hanging out,” continued Janelle. “Since we moved around so much, those pictures are really the only record I have of my childhood.”
When Janelle became a mom as a teenager, Toilynn went to her baby shower. A mother herself, Toilynn was a great resource to Janelle as a new mom. It was around that time that Janelle felt she really got to know Toilynn as a person, not just as her social worker.
Today, Janelle has a blended family with four boys ranging in age from 8 to 13. Both her experience in foster care and in getting to know Toiylnn inspired Janelle to give back to kids who are now in foster care. She volunteers at Camp to Belong, which she and her siblings participated in as kids, and she has become a court-appointed special advocate (CASA); advocating on behalf of abused and neglected children navigating the court system.
“Working with kids who are in foster care like I was, gives me the chance to help them understand that they don’t need to be embarrassed or ashamed about their situation,” explained Janelle. “It’s just their story, and everyone has one.”
Does the positive difference Toilynn made in Janelle’s life inspire you? Did you know Colorado needs more caseworkers and social workers? Consider meeting the growing need for professionals helping Colorado children, youth and families. Visit our CAREERS page to learn more, today.