Nothing really prepared me for the sleepless nights when I lay awake remembering the faces of my “kids” — my clients — who have ended up deep in the juvenile justice and criminal systems. My youngest client was ten. Several have been been barely four feet tall. Many, many have been developmentally disabled or profoundly mentally ill.
One of my goals and one thing that I do well is to make them understand that I care about them. Very few people do care. My kids are not just a case number to me; not just another file to get off my desk. And that caring and trust is what has led to my many sleepless nights. I am often the bearer of bad news and their eyes haunt me. I am the one that tells them when their parents voluntarily terminate their parental rights and walk away. I am the one who tells them about the term “presumptive waiver” and that there is little hope that he or she will not be walking over to the jail in the morning after the waiver hearing. I am the one who tells them that no residential treatment facility will accept them and they will likely be sent off to the Department of Correction and no one knows when they will be coming home. So much bad news.
I agonize about things that I could have done better at hearings and avenues that I did not explore. I study to build my skills so that maybe next time I can do a little better and have a different outcome. Next time… And, there will be a next time. Each morning, I get up, dust myself off, and rage against the machine for another day.