Saturday, March 1, 2014

Maybe I Overreacted

I rarely stand up for myself or for people I know. So I surprised myself earlier this week when I couldn't resist the urge to call Social Services on behalf of a stranger for something other than a neglect or abuse call-which I would and have actually done before. This time though, I was calling about one of the volunteers they had enlisted.

Our county has a group home for children whose parents are neglectful, abusive or incarcerated. Most of the kids at the group home can't be placed with foster families either because of the nature of their situation or the lack of available foster care at any given time. When I was a teen I had to stay there for a short time, a few days or so, maybe a week, and I have visited children there as well. Volunteers are used for chauffeuring kids to appointments or meetings when the group shuttle bus isn't available. I realized that I was sitting next to one-such volunteer and her ward in an overcrowded waiting room because the woman was clueless and wouldn't stop talking about the boy's situation in public.  She kept asking him questions and while he answered politely enough, it was obvious he didn't want to talk-he kept lowering his voice and not-obviously-enough tried to change the subject.

I know he lives in the group home and how long he's been there because she called it by name and asked him how long he's been there. None of MY business, probably none of HER business, but now a dozen people know HIS business.  And she continued to ask him questions in a bubbly, out of touch tone, like she really didn't get it.  She responded to his lack of sleep with something along the lines of "Oh, that sucks. I have a baby and she keeps me up most nights, so I know exactly how you feel with not being able to sleep". Really? This continued for a few minutes before I left and I'm sure it continued after. 

I wanted to tell her off in the waiting room, to tell her that while it is great she is volunteering her time she needed to just think about what this kid's life is like and quit talking about it in front of others. But between my lack of backbone and the assumption that he probably would've felt worse if I made a scene, I left without saying a word. But even after a twenty minute drive to calm myself I couldn't shake my anger or my sorrow and ended up parked on the side of the road, Googling Social Services. After I was transferred to the "right person", I explained I wasn't trying to get anyone in trouble and that the main reason I called was to suggest more sensitivity training for volunteers.  I told her I had hoped that the only reason I realized the boy's situation was because I had personal experience at the home, so maybe I was overreacting. But she said they do a lot of promotions for the home to raise funds and recruit volunteers so any number of people are familiar with it, and the boy's situation is his own business and they need to protect the confidentiality of these kids, so she appreciated my call.

I've had time to over analyze think about the situation and my actions, and I still worry that I overreacted. But at the same time I know how much I worried about people knowing about my few days in that group home, I can only imagine two years would be worse. I hope I did the right thing.