"My job is to help families find solutions," Sharon Goddard says. "I listen to and empathize with children and their families."
Her role may seem simple at first, but Goddard’s work within PCHAS’ Foster Care Case Management Program is nuanced and both bureaucratically and emotionally complex. Every day she is on the front line of the fight to protect her community’s most vulnerable children and their families.
As a licensed social worker, Goddard trained for years to gain the skills necessary to guide those who are hurting down a path to recovery. With compassion and tenacity, she brings those skills directly to where people need them most. Often, this means showing up in court.
When biological parents lose custody of children, Goddard steps in to walk with those parents as they complete court requirements such as drug screenings, paternity testing, anger management classes. Her schedule is filled with appointments with those families and foster homes. She conducts visits between the children and their biological families and may refer them to resources for housing, employment or medical care as needed.
Her ultimate goal is arranging permanent homes for children. When possible, she reunites families. Many days, though, she works within the state’s foster care network to provide emergency and long-term placements with foster parents.
Because Goddard’s clients are going through a highly emotional ordeal, they may be fearful or uncooperative. "The children don't trust adults, and some of the parents don't trust us, either," she says. "We have to prove that they matter to us. So the first thing I do when I walk through their door is turn off my phone."
On a recent day, Goddard appeared in Family Court for a teenaged boy who had been caught shoplifting. Later, she transported a toddler from an emergency foster placement to a long-term stay. She stopped by her office to complete documentation about both children, submit billing and update her records in the PCHAS database. Then she reviewed notes for her next appointment: An eight-year-old girl was having problems both academically and behaviorally, and the foster parents asked Goddard for her guidance.
Helping families find solutions may sound simple. But foster care case managers juggle grief, anger and details of difficult cases. They comply with court regulations and deadlines and for state reports. They bring a balance of compassion and tenacity to their work, wherever families need them.
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