Ask a Mentor: Addressing Situations of Concern

Volunteer Question

I'm really upset. I'm on my second case now and I made my first home visit late this afternoon. The case involves four children who are placed together in a home. The two boys are seven and eight. The girls are five and fifteen months. The caregiver had everyone in the living room when I got there. There was a space heater plugged in with a long extension cord and the toddler was wandering around near it. The caregiver picked up the toddler and made all the others sit where she told them to sit.

Almost immediately she began to scold the 5-year-old girl "Janie," berating her for wetting her pants in kindergarten today. Then she mentioned four or five other "bad" things Janie had done since she got home. She ignored the boys except for scolding them because they were slow to respond when I asked them about school. You could tell she liked the toddler as she kept saying fond things to her while being harsh to Janie and scolding the boys.

I worried about these children all the way home. They've been through a lot already and really need a supportive caregiver. What should I do?

Mentor Answer

You sound as though you did a really good job of observing during your visit and you are right to be concerned. Send an email tonight to both the case manager and to your volunteer supervisor describing what you observed. If you don't hear back from them tomorrow, call them. The case manager may have concerns about the placement and your observations could help her decide about the appropriateness of this placement. The space heater sounds like a safety hazard and the emotional environment does sound negative.

Why don't you plan to make another visit in a few days, unannounced this time, either to confirm your concerns or feel better about the placement? This could help you clarify your impressions. You will find that most placement homes are good for the children, but sometimes a negative situation occurs. I'm glad you were observant of what was going on and want to make things better for the children.

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