Emersond Jean-Baptiste, a dependency case manager at Children Home Society in Tallahassee, was working on a judicial review when I got there for a visit. He was compiling information from a foster child’s teachers, foster parents, coaches, and doctors, anyone who is in the child’s life. These are done every five to six months and are presented to a judge – a kind of status update to make sure the child is doing okay and an opportunity to address any issues. Emersond wants to make the judges feel like they are actually on scene, not just reading a piece of paper, so he puts in as much information as he can.
I was interested to talk to Emersond. I wanted to know what his day was like, the successes, the difficulties. I was glad to have the opportunity to find out more about what is happening on the front lines.
Emersond told me he now has 16 cases, but that means about 25 kids. One of his single cases is actually five siblings. Few of his cases only have one child. He does home visits for each of the children, but I was glad to hear about the time he was taking with the families.
When he goes to a home he said he takes the children to another room so they can talk freely without the foster parents around. He said the first question is always, “What did you have to eat today?” This seems to get the children to relax and open up. He’ll stop by the children’s room and talk about pictures that are around and activities they are interested in. They often sit on the floor or kick a ball around outside while talking. He’ll ask about school and how they are feeling in the house. He tries to get the kids to separate how they are feeling about being away from their parents and tries to get them to focus on what is actually going on with their foster family, but also makes a point to talk about how the kids are feeling overall.
Emersond tries to go to every doctor’s appointment his kids have. He wants to know what is going on first-hand so he becomes a stable presence for the child, but also so he doesn’t have to spend hours calling doctors to get updates for his reports. This way he has direct knowledge of every aspect of the case. He also likes to make doctor’s appointments an opportunity for biological parents to learn and be with their child. Parents are notified of the appointments and Emersond gets them involved with the child’s care. This way the family has more communication and the parents know what is going on with their child’s health. It helps the learning curve once the family is reunited. There are also times when the parents might not know about services – one mother didn’t know how to get dental care for her son, so Emersond set up an appointment for the child and took the mother to the appointment.
He spoke of the challenges he faces, mainly that so many things need to be done but it is hard to make sure every child gets the same level of care. He talked about how bad he feels when two of his children have doctor’s appointments at the same time and he has to choose one. He worries that the children feel like he is deserting them or that they aren’t important enough for him to be there. But he always makes sure there is a DCF representative with them.
I’m glad to know that our kids have great support from case managers like Emersond. We’ll keep doing everything we can to give them the resources they need to continue helping our kids. We value our front-line staff and will make sure we give them what they need to help our kids succeed.
Here’s a direct quote from Emersond:
“The pleasure and privilege is mine in working for a company that truly cares about the very children we serve! I will forever be grateful.”