I have been reading and learning a lot about personal values lately. I have been learning about my own personal values as part of my own journey of self awareness and learning about what makes me the way that I am. In this post I share with you a story that happened to me while I worked with children in foster care. It encouraged me to explore my personal values and how these shape the way that I work with you.
NOTE: This post mentions Child Protection Services and may contain triggering information.
What are Personal Values
You can read the entire blog post I wrote about what personal values are here, but in short, personal values are the things that matter most to us and what make us unique and individual people. They highlight what we stand for and what we are willing to fight for. Our personal values guide us in how we react, respond and behave in situations.
My Discovery of What I Am Willing to Fight For
I would like to tell you a bit about the discovery of some of my own personal values, my discovery about what I am willing to fight for and how my personal values influence the way that I work with you. This story is from when I worked in Child Protection Services and I found myself challenging the system.
When I worked as a Child Safety officer, I had been working with a young girl, aged 11 years. I’ll name her Sarah and keep this pretty general so I can maintain her confidentiality. Sarah had a challenging beginning to her life. She, along with her step brother and sister were removed from her step-father’s care and lived in foster care. Her mother had been out of the picture for some time, in and out of prison and often failing to turn up to access visits with Sarah.
So far in Sarah’s life, she has had nine primary care givers. You can’t even imagine how much damage this does to anybody, let alone this little girl. Sarah had a pattern of behaviours. When she started to become close to her care givers, she would do what she could to sabotage and destroy the relationship (‘getting in first’ as I would often try to explain it). Her care givers did not have the skills to be able to work though this with her and often I would be left with finding another place for her to live.
Sarah’s step-dad worked hard and his biological children were eventually returned to his care. Sarah didn’t (for what reason, I still have no idea) but I knew Sarah longed to be with her step-family, or at least have some form of contact with them. I contacted her step-dad and he was angry. I had never heard a person so angry in my entire life. I couldn’t comprehend how he was feeling but I understood how it got that way. The system had failed Sarah and her family and I was determined to do what I could so Sarah could be with her family. This was Sarah’s last option with her family and ‘it had to work’.
The system wanted to return Sarah to her step-dad’s care immediately. I’m not sure whether it was considered a ‘quick fix’ or what it was, but I knew that wouldn’t work. Given Sarah’s trauma, her pattern for breaking down her foster care placements and her step-dad’s attitude regarding Sarah’s behaviour (‘It wont happen when she returns home’) I knew that this was not going to end well. My management wouldn’t listen, so I knew I had to be planned and strategic with how I was going to go about this. I was determined to not cause any further harm to Sarah.
I became mentally unwell working with this family and challenging a system that was against everything that I valued and believed in. I have taken time out and I started doing things for me. I am also used this as an opportunity to learn about what this says about me, my values and how they impact with the people that I work with.
What I Have Learned about my Values So Far
- Do no further harm: I have learned that I am willing to fight to prevent further harm on others.
- Family and connection: That family is important, both to me and to others, particularly for children in foster care.
- Morals and ethics: I have learned that I am willing to fight for what I think is morally right and ethical.
I’m not sure what happened to Sarah, but I know that she is reconnected with her family. I wouldn’t change thing that I did. This is something that I am proud of and I will always hold it close.
SO, WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU AND WHAT DO YOU VALUE?
I’m curious to know what is important to you and what do you value. Comment below and tell me about one thing that is important to you and that you value.
Here’s to finding your best you.
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