One of the most memorable moments in my life occurred about 12-14years ago, now. I was telling my story to about 250 child welfare professionals from our state agency, private agencies, and the Courts in the county where I was now working in child welfare, so these people were my colleagues. This was also the exact same county where I’d grown up in foster care, so many of the people in that room had actually been involved with my own case, at one point or another. As I spoke, I had no idea how many people from my case were in that room and I definitely did not know that the Judge who had oversight over my case was in the room! As I told my story, I talked about the decisions that were made that continued to impact me, as an adult, and were also impacting my children. I talked about how the decisions made when I was 12 years old continued to play a huge role in my life. While I’ve never been super, uber angry with the system and, for the most part, recognize the huge opportunities that came my way to change my family tree, I will admit that some of these things continue to bug me. And, then, the moment happened…
The Judge from my case, who I was now working with regularly, because I was working for our local CASA program, came up to the stage and took the microphone. He looked at me, and in front of all those 250 people, APOLOGIZED to me! He looked me dead in the eye and said “I’m sorry for the decisions we didn’t make for you. I’m sorry we didn’t do better for you. I’m sorry.”
As you can imagine, I was brought to tears and I felt a rush of emotion in that moment. Even though I was never angry at this person, or really angry at the system, I felt so incredibly honored that this man, whom I had admired my whole life because I knew the difficult decisions he was forced to make, would humble himself before me and apologize, in front of all our shared colleagues…. Continue reading Serena’s post!
Serena L. Hanson, LMSW is an alumni of the foster care system in Kansas. After years of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse in the home of her parents, she was placed into the child welfare system at the age of 12 and spent the next 6 years in care, experiencing 10 moves during that time. Serena was never reintegrated into her home and was never made legally available for adoption. She aged out of the fsoter care system to a life of independence at 18 years old. Serena went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Family Counseling from Barclay College and a Master’s degree in Social Work from Newman University. Almost immediately after aging out of foster care, Serena married her high school sweetheart and began working in child welfare and giving back to the system that dramatically impacted her life.
Serena operates, independently, as a Child Welfare Consultant and Trainer and is an experienced motivational speaker, workshop and seminar facilitator, resource family developer, program administrator and advocate. She is also currently a Community Adjunct Faculty with the University of Oklahoma Anne & Henry Zarrow School of Social Work. She and her husband, Justin, currently live in Norman, OK with their four children – two boys, Shawn and Derek, ages 14 and 12 and two girls, Chloe and Sarah, ages 10 and 8, but they are moving home to Kansas in the coming weeks.
Connect with Serena online at www.whenfostercaregoesright.com