My name is Trista Bearden and I am a Casework Supervisor at Lorain County Children Services (LCCS). I am a resident of Lorain County and a parent. I have been employed by Children Services for almost six years. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do seven years ago when I graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College with a bachelor’s degree. I worked briefly as a private investigator before being offered a job at Children Services. I had an awareness of the issues involving child abuse and neglect in our county, as I had served as a guardian ad litem for three years. Ultimately, I took a job as a protective services caseworker. After two years, I went on to get my master’s degree from Case Western Reserve University.
During my six years of employment, I have seen a number of staff come and go. I can honestly say I have never met a staff member at Children Services who has come with the intention of doing anything less than their best. Being a child protective worker is a job where the telephone becomes an extension of the worker’s body, the automobile becomes an office and sometimes a sanctuary, and paperwork becomes as overwhelming as climbing Mount Everest. And yes, it is hard, it is stressful, and it is painful at times. I have walked into a child’s home where there was no food, no electricity, no running water, and the roaches had the run of the house. I have gone to the drug store to purchase a lice kit and showed a parent how to use it. I have begged to have a family put on the top of the waiting list for housing. I have bargained with a utility company to avoid having a family get their gas shut off in the middle of winter. I have sat with a family for hours in a clinic waiting for the doctor to see their child. I have visited emergency rooms and viewed the broken bones and the bruises. I am not alone.
I have been awakened at midnight to go to a police station to pick up children who had no place to go because their mother had just gotten arrested for drug abuse. I have sat through a child’s painful disclosure that her father raped her repeatedly for the past five years. I have driven a mother and her two children to a safe haven after her boyfriend gave her a black eye and busted lip and I watched while she returned to him two weeks later without her children. I have testified in court that it would be in children’s best interest to have their parent’s rights severed forever. I am not alone.
I have held countless children in my arms from birth through eighteen years old. I have cried with them and I have cried for them and they have each touched me in some way. And, when the tears were all gone, I have laid my head on my desk in sheer exhaustion before lifting it to start again. I have had days when I left work early because the stress became overwhelming and I have returned the next day to start again. I am not alone.
I have been told countless times “I could never do your job” and “it must be depressing.” Why do I do it? I love it. I love that on Monday’s at 10:00 AM in Judge Horvath’s courtroom, I get the pleasure of sharing in the moment that a family comes together through adoption and a child has a permanent home. I love that at Christmas, I get to share in the delight of delivering our community’s generous donation of gifts to our families and children. I love that every now and then I get a school picture in the mail of a child I had closed on my caseload a few years ago, with a note from their mom about how well they are doing. I am not alone.
I love working with families and children. Our families are interesting, resourceful, and diverse. Our children are beautiful, bright, and sensitive. I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with a staff comprised of dedicated, caring, and committed people. I am not alone.
I do it because I believe in our agency. I believe in our mission. I believe we provide quality services to children and families. I believe we are an agency that welcomes others to evaluate our services, to critique our professionalism and to teach us how to do it better. I believe we are an agency that will always be committed to doing the right things right, the first time, on time, every time, one child at a time. I am not alone.