A Letter to My Future Self by Angel Ofire

This is reflection piece written by Angel Ofire a Social Worker practicing on the Gold Coast of Australia. Angel works tirelessly to eradicate teen homeless in her country. To learn more about Angel and her work visit her at Choices a community service program assisting children and families experiencing hardships.

Dear future Angel,

No matter what point it is that you have come to find this letter, I would like you to know that you have worked hard, no correction above hard to get as far as you have come.

You have surprised even me, (well actually you) with your passion, determination and ultimately your stubborn nature that seems to have come in handy especially in relation to the almost impossible task of changing the way community service provision is provided to people within the community including raising awareness as you continue to shout it out about mental illness, and how it is not an imaginary illness, nor is this an illness that should be down played as it has some very serious effects on so many people.

Your will, determination and sheer pig headedness to make it heard, that there are simply some professionals out there who need to re-evaluate what their field of professionalism is actually in, and telling people to get a new profession has been one that has often shown courage, but mostly you can thank that impulsive nature you have.

The very nature you seemed to think was your downfall; however this impulse is more of strength than anything else.

You are indeed yes your own worst critic, therefore maybe you need to give yourself a break from trying to reach for perfection and beyond perfection from time to time and accept that yes even you make mistakes.

Its not the end of the world to admit that your human well we are human.
Oh yes well I remember, try not to fly off the handle to fast at these new found things that your discovering to be triggers that are setting off the post-traumatic stress disorder, that for some reason you try to fight.

Fighting this PTSD is futile, even though I know you are more than aware of this, considering you can and do go 8 days no sleep and still continue to keep pushing that body of yours above and beyond what it is capable of.

Well we are on the subject of your health, and well body, you know that you have to go and get this surgery your putting off done not only will it remove the part of you that is causing you such pain, that you bite your bottom lip to descise, but it will regulate that whole hormone thing, and give you back some kind of quality to life, rather than the current up down battle you have between hormones and medication.

Yes I know too well that having a hysterectomy is not one of the things you would of imagined us to have to get done, and I know that this operation gives us that feeling of being less than whole, but face it your (our) baby making days are finished, its time to get rid of those bits that are causing god knows what problems, and get back to being some kind of human again.

Oh one final thing, its ok to admit your scared to others, you don’t have to be this super brave human all the time

And that man you love, well he loves you back more than you know, in fact I will tell you this now, he would do anything and everything for you and all your kids, he considers them to be his babies too. So stop being so f***ing stubborn, and learn to let him love you, and remember this, he does know if you have been crying in the shower, or when your holding in tears, he does know you better than anyone on the face of this earth.

Let him be there to hold you through your tears, and share the laughs with him the good the bad the s*** and the little girl you try so desperately to hide, because trust me Angel he sees her more than you realise.

So until we meet again, good luck and for f*** sake take my advice.

After all nobody knows you better than the Angel writing this.

Angel Ofire

Let Kids Have Their Say in the Child Protection System

By Angel Ofire

It presents a challenge for how we in the child protection system balance young people’s protective needs with their need to have a say in their own lives. International, national and state legislation and guidelines enshrine the right of children and young people to participate in decisions about their own lives. Research shows supporting children and young people to make informed decisions about their own lives improves outcomes in terms of self-confidence, social skills and positive life choices.

Courtesy of Child Welfare MaineFor children and young people who experience the child protection system, participation is of particular importance. Feedback shows they continue to demand more involvement in the care that they receive. On a broader level, children and young people also want a say in the system designed to protect and support them. Our goal is a child protection system that supports children and young people to be engaged participants in their own lives. Without a doubt, their participation results in both improved individual outcomes along with improved services.

This strategy is the Queensland child protection system’s commitment to give young people a voice and develop a system that truly meets their needs. It was originally developed by a youth led group called G-Force, which sees young people with a care experience working alongside key representatives from organisations throughout Queensland to improve our care system.

Involving children and young people in decision making processes is a responsibility shared across the child protection sector.

All children and young people in the child protection system have the right in shaping:

• Their lives now and for the future; and

• The services and support they and other children and young people receive.

All children and young people have a right to participate in decision-making about their own life. This should not be limited by ability, age, ethnic background, personal circumstances or behaviour. Specific skills and processes are required to facilitate the participation of the most vulnerable children in our services including the very young, children with intellectual disabilities, communication difficulties, children from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Children and young people will also have increased opportunities to express their views, and have these views meaningfully considered, in discussions about the type of services they and other children and young people receive.

See No Evil…..Speak No Evil

by Angel Ofire

The one thing on earth that urks my chain is when others take advantage of those who are vulnerable.

For example, the elderly is a classic, these are the groups of people who people will scam on purpose and take advantage of their lack of skills when it comes to an online presence, as the elderly have somewhat a trusting demeanour about them, a certain naivety if you will.

Another example is those who have a mental illness, for whatever reason people out there seem to find it justifiable to take advantage of a person who is in a situation where they are suffering from a mental illness.

Then there are those who maybe semi-literate or illiterate as church groups and the likes of have them sign themselves into which ever program it is that is aimed allegedly to assist this group of individuals and the individual has no understanding of what it is that he or she is signing into, much less a total and full understanding of what the group is aimed at providing.

When we have families out there sleeping in cars with make shift accommodations, adolescents who are doing it rough (for lack of better words), and elderly who are being used and abused on a daily basis while, the majority seem to turn a blind eye to it.

If we don’t see it or pretend we don’t see it, then its not really going on. This seems to be the attitude of those who bury their heads in the proverbial sand and ignore situations that are causing people to fall further into the pit of poverty and no self-worth.

Is there any hope left out there?

Foster Fails: Challenges of Children in the System

by Angel Ofire

In a world of diversity that is fast changing to see our kids suffer the hardships of homelessness, abuse, or falling victim to the system which is designed to protect not neglect them as they grow, I struggle to see how and why we have so many adolescents who are doing it rough (for lack of a better term).

At any given point in any young person’s life they are impressionable,

Their minds like sponges absorbing all they see, and hear, they learn from us their elders their mentors; it is our role to protect the growing generation, encourage and to lead them.

It is our role to provide them with a stable environment an environment that will encourage them to grow, an environment that will assist them with the transition of life as they move out into the world on their own similar to when the baby bird leaves the nest.

However in many cases sadly worldwide this is not the case, children are being used as cheap labour, they are being exploited and sexually abused, they are finding themselves victims of the system that has taken them out of a place they know and call home placing them into foster family care, which for all intents and purposes is stated by the child protection agencies to protect the child that they have viewed to be in a situation of risk or harm.

The agencies are placing these kids who come from backgrounds unlike the average child that has not been stable, that has not had consistency and often they have witnessed their caregivers abusing substances and one another.

Where these agencies fail to protect our adolescents is when they place these individuals into the foster system,

With a family who is not prepared for the high needs of a child who has been in often traumatic situations who has seen, lived with, and often been abused in some form,

Therefore leading to the adolescents that this family had imagined they would help by offering their homes to be foster or temporary care givers in reality is not that child they had in their minds eye.

Foster carers need to be aware of the high needs and behaviour of a child or adolescents that has been subjected to the instability and often unsavoury life style that this child has come to view as their normal,

often acting in manners that the average adolescents would not, often these kids are withdrawn, non-trusting, with a range of other issues that go alongside of living in a world where there care givers have given no care to that individual only to themselves putting their own needs before that of the innocent who is now in a world that they do not understand and do not trust.

It is these individuals who find themselves having their temporary care providers unable to cope with the behaviour that they are displaying, and the high needs that they require in order to enable them come to terms with the life they have been removed from, only to find that their case worker assigned by the child protection agency is moving them from temporary accommodation time after time, because the family who assumed this role to be one that was easier or more of a fairy tale ending than what the reality is finds themselves in a position where they are unable to provide this individual with the care they require, therefore the circle of moving on again begins for the person in need of stability doing often more damage than good.

Group housing is not an option as group housing seems to fail in ways that the foster care or temporary care arrangements may not fail in, yet group housing fails in offering that family placement, that the government agencies seem to think will be beneficial to the adolescent who is now a  case number.

Often these groups of kids are the kids we call street kids, couch surfers or gangs.

As they decide to leave the system that continues to fail them, to live on the streets, finding a way to survive daily.

This is simply unacceptable, it is simply barbaric and wrong, yet what can we as social workers overall do to prevent this from reoccurring?

Letters and petitions to the government quite frankly are no more than a waste of time; therefore let’s tick that off the list of what we can do to help those who need assistance.

We need to be real about how it is out there in order to help our kids, we need to take a step back from what the text book answers say and look deeper into the bigger picture in order to assist those who are most vulnerable.

All the white papers research numbers and statistics mean shit at the end of the day, it’s time that the focus was redirected from this book worm research and number crunching approach and reality was re-introduced.

Overall in order to help anybody who is in a position that they require outside intervention the only way to ensure that intervention is successful is by providing the right intervention not some half-done quarter researched white paper quota given out by governing departments world-wide.

Numbers and statistics mean nothing at the end of the day when a child has to sleep in a park or behind a dumpster rubbish bin, those numbers mean nothing in the light of day when that child is finding they are running drugs for the local dealers or simply entering a prostitution ring to make the money they require to survive when in reality that child should be safe in a class room getting an education looking forward to a future, not looking down the pants of a total stranger to hand them $20 after they become further degraded in acts they really should not know anything about.

Again I ask the question what can we as social workers do to assist those who need assistance the most for the long term? Not just some band aid cover up that is temporary?

I Believe…

by Angel Ofire

I believe in treating others in the way you wish to be treated, therefore showing respect is something that should yet sadly often doesn’t come naturally to people.

Does it really take that much to ask another if they are ok?

Is it the fear their reply may be no I am not ok and you may have to help the person in some way that stops us from asking this simple question or is it the fact we simply have become complacent and act as though if things don’t affect us directly or have any form of impact on our lives then things don’t matter therefore why bother asking somebody if they are ok?

I am a firm believer of treating others as you would expect to be treated yourself, I also believe in showing people respect, it is part of me, part of who I am, a part I don’t consider to be a bad thing.

In fact treating others with dignity and respect is something I assumed that everybody out there did.

This was when I would learn the first rule of life, never to assume.

Assumption itself can be and often is the mother of our down falls, yet it can also be the beginning of a nightmare as assumptions lead to misconceptions which lead to judgments of others than are not accurate, that can be and are often plain wrong.

I fail to see why we don’t ask the simple question of are you ok to another, and further fail to see how any person can see a person in trouble who needs help of any kind and keep walking ignoring this sight, pretending they had not seen it, or simply avoiding it in order to not have to put out their hand and help a person up who may have fallen into the gutter of life.

Not everybody who you see out there has a stereo typical painted persona of the character we have had painted and placed in our minds.

I believe that everybody deserves a chance in life sometimes a 2nd or 3rd chance, and I believe that people are able to change, to a degree, however I do believe we are who we are deep down, and sometimes people don’t or won’t change regardless.

Yet I still could not walk past a person needing my help, and ignore it, I still find myself concerned when seeing an elderly lady in her yard with two tiny dogs, as I ask is there someone else living with her to care for her.

Knowing that this women would not have the physical strength to open a can of soup to feed herself much less be able to clean, and stay on top of her health.

How often do you ask yourself something like that when you see an elderly person struggling? I bet you don’t even give it a second thought as you race past on your busy day thinking to yourself not my problem.

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