Ask a Mentor: Dealing with a Difficult Case

Volunteer Question

I'm reluctant to talk about this, but it is bothering me a great deal. I'm having real trouble learning to like the child in my case, "Mark," an 11-year-old boy. There are several children in the home, and he manipulates all of them. He tries it with me too. He has several other traits which really concern me. The caregivers don't seem to let these traits bother them and say they just deal with any misbehavior when it occurs.

When I talked with the therapist he said that he had only seen Mark twice. I am aware that Mark has a very troubled history, and I know that liking the child is not my focus. But I'm concerned whether I am being sufficiently objective in determining what is in his best interest. I have really started dreading my visits, and I feel so guilty about my feelings.

Mentor Answer

This is something that can happen. Don't punish yourself about it. Talk with your volunteer supervisor and together decide whether it would be better for you to take another case and let this one be assigned to someone else. With the information you provide, the volunteer supervisor may be able to involve a guardian ad litem who is uniquely suited to this situation. We want the child to have the best possible representation and for you to have a satisfying experience so that you don't become discouraged.

If you do give up the case, be sure to have your file updated so that the new guardian can get a better start. Check to see that you have included case notes that document everything you have done, copies of emails and copies of all your child visit reports. If you are not in the habit of printing the documents scanned to you from the guardian ad litem office, the volunteer supervisor can supply those. I hope that you and your volunteer supervisor can resolve this—both to your satisfaction and to the benefit of the child.

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