Dear Social Worker:
Do you realize that deep down we are afraid of you?
We realize that you have all the power, and that makes us angry beyond any other thing done to us in our lives. You have the one thing in the entire world that has brought any sense of peace, love, light and goodness in our lives—our children. And that would even make you angry beyond belief.
Please don’t stand there and say you would never let that happen, because we come from a different place than you do. Please try to understand the place we come from and meet us half way.
You make us feel like if we do not prove we are good enough then you have the power to keep our children forever away from us. Do you know we have never, ever felt good enough anyway?
Do you know we do not know exactly what it takes to raise our children? We know love isn’t enough, but what if we told you that parenting scares us because these beautiful beings seem too precious and good for us.
Our children don’t see us that way. Our children hurt when they are away from us. Even as children, no matter what was going on we still had the want and the need to be with our parents and family.
Do you know that we do want to try and if someone wants to try, wouldn’t you want to help them? If someone was thirsty, wouldn’t you give them a drink of water? What if I told you my soul is thirsty? What would you say then?
Do you know that we think about how our children will feel if they never see us again? They’ll feel the same way we felt when we were in care, abandoned, alone, worthless, helpless, angry and never good enough. You have the power to change this. You have the power to save human beings, us and our children.
Do you realize the anger we feel is going to lead to a depression especially if we feel helpless? Do you realize that you can help us with that? We are people, just like you. We didn’t have the greatest lives; far from it, but one of our biggest most precious creations you have in your control—our children.
Do you know that labor was the sweetest pain we have ever felt because it was leading to something good? It was leading to pure unconditional love. Please don’t blame us for not knowing what to do. If history has taught anything, it is that the system and how it treats us makes us angry and makes us want to give up.
If we give up, then we hide behind our masks until we have put ourselves in the ground and it is you that will have to tell our children that we are gone.
The scariest thing for us is wondering why we couldn’t have ‘normal’ lives, be ‘normal’ like everyone else. The scariest thing is that we don’t have that answer, but you do have some answers and can help us get on that path towards ‘normal’. If you don’t have the answers then send us to people who do, good people not more people who are good at labeling and justifying.
Do you know that all our lives we have already felt ‘not good enough’ our entire lives? Do you know we were also in care and so were a lot of our family members? Do you know how many social workers it took to do that? To make us feel like we weren’t good enough and to have that ‘validated’ by social workers by not returning us to our parents or by not returning our children or by not helping us keep our children.
Do you know how much it destroys us when you look at us as if we aren’t good enough to have our children? Do you know how degraded we feel when we have to walk out of that office without our kids and with judgements and stories about who we are?
Do you know that we already know that because we are brown we are going to have to try harder, fight harder, and cry harder just for a chance to love our kids? You have the power to see us as human beings who need a chance to be treated like human beings. We are so used to being treated like we aren’t human beings by the same system we were in, by residential schools, by taking our moms away through judgment and shaming, by the stereotypes out there that people seem to learn out of thin air it seems.
Do you know that we are afraid to be parents? Afraid to make a mess of things. All our lives we think we have been good at making messes. Do you know we don’t even realize the messes we make until it’s too late? We didn’t have mommies to tuck us in and pray with us and put all their hopes in us. Our mommies were just trying to survive. Our mommies were always trying to run from the past, never really seeing a future because if they were always looking behind how could they see a future for themselves, let alone us?
Do you know what really happens? What happens is that we ask the Creator why we were born, every single day. Our ancestors, grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins went to residential school or have been affected by it. Do you know what that’s like? Generations of our families suffering from the effects of trauma. Do you know this doesn’t make us bad parents or a bad people? This makes us human beings who need and deserve to be respected, helped and valued. We are human beings who need to hear and feel that someone actually cares about us and what happens to our children. Don’t you think we have suffered enough?
We don’t need the labels you give us: She’s someone with mental health or she has mental health issues. She’s an alcoholic. She’s a drug addict. She’s promiscuous. She. She. She. Those labels don’t tell the story of our true selves. What if we told you we never had a chance to know our true selves? What if we told you that never in our entire lives have we felt safe? So we tried and still try to mask it with substances and the love of other broken people?
We are people who are afraid of the world and don’t show it because every time we showed weakness as children and as adults, people abused us. We are people who cry real tears that no one can hear or see because letting anyone know would make it real. Hiding behind our masks is how we continue to stay on this earth. Our masks of addiction have kept us on this earth hoping tomorrow will be better. Always hoping…
What if we told you that we have never been in the moment, enjoying life because we too are running from our pasts? What if we told you that we don’t have the right words to tell you what’s going on and that maybe we never will, but give us a chance to see, to feel and to be heard. Give us the chance to be a human being just like you are and speak gently to a broken soul.
Wanda John Kehewin