~Lisa Barnelli, Family Reunification Case Manager, Lutheran Children and Family Service
My job can be tough. As Family Reunification Case Manager for Lutheran Children and Family Service, I come into the picture after children have been taken away from their family. Children are placed outside their homes for a number of reasons – drug-addicted parents, financial hardships, child abuse and neglect. If the problems aren’t resolved or improved, the children can’t return home. Fortunately, there are case managers like me who work diligently to help these children and their parents get the services they need and deserve to become a healthy family unit again.
Liberty’s Lutheran Children and Family Service – provides services and resources to children and their families throughout the Greater Philadelphia area – to either prevent the placement of the children or prepare the families for when their children return home. If a parent needs access to drug and alcohol treatment, we find it for them, help them set up the appointment, and provide transportation. If a family needs welfare benefits, we aid them in the application process and take them to the office to meet their caseworker. If a child needs to register for school or go to a therapy appointment, we will assist with it. Our job is to do everything possible to support these parents in providing a positive, healthy and safe environment for their children.
I chose this career because I love working with and learning from others. Social work gives you the opportunity to meet, serve and work with a diverse group of people. Although the job can be emotionally taxing, I find my faith is restored in many ways.
Take Justine and her two children, Jaden, age 7, and Jason, age 5. Justine met the children’s father, John, when she was 13. She gave birth to the boys at the ages of 14 and 16. John was physically abusive to Justine in front of the children and forcing her to use drugs so he could control her, causing her to become addicted. John finally went to prison, the children were placed with John’s mother and Justine was left with nothing. It could have ended there, but 22-year old Justine decided to fight back and get her life together.
While I worked with Justine, she held a full time job, stayed clean from drugs, owned her own home and got custody of Jaden and Jason. Jaden’s mental and emotional health, however, was severely damaged by all he had witnessed and he was extremely resistant to going home. On the day the family was reunified, Jaden kicked, cursed at, and spit on Justine which broke my heart. Justine though, being a strong woman and mother, just held him tight and told him she loved him. I visited twice a week to work with the family on their transition, but Jaden wouldn’t speak to me for what seemed like ages. Finally, with Justine’s constant love and support, Jaden began to open up to her, me, and the world in general. What a beautiful testament to the power of love! The darkness that John represented did not triumph over the love of a mother for her children.
I think it’s so important for people to know about LCFS, because the work we do is a vital reminder that there are good people in the world who care about the well-being of children and families.
My job as a social worker is joyous, uplifting and totally awesome!