Your Money At Work

October 30, 2013

Dear Gabe Miller Foundation & Mr. Miller,

I regret to say that I will not be able to be in attendance for the annual Gabe Miller Foundation Dinner. I have greatly enjoyed attending the dinner for the last two years. It was lovely meeting various people at the dinner and the other scholarship recipients. I don't want to brag, but think I always sat at the table with the most interesting people!

The reason for my absence from this year's dinner is due to my relocation to Philadelphia, PA. I moved here as of June 2013 because I got married and my husband is starting a recording studio here in Philly. I have been very fortunate to find a job with Presbyterian Children's Village in southwest Philadelphia. I wear two hats at this organization, as a foster care crisis worker and adoptions case manager. I respond to psychiatric, medical, and placement emergencies in foster homes and also process adoptions and provide adoption services for agency clients. A typical day at my job might be attending a court hearing to finalize an adoption in the morning, transporting a child from school to therapy in the afternoon, and responding to a crisis in the evening hours.

I would like to share two great success stories that I have recently had in my social work practice. I know that I will spend my career in the child welfare system, so that marks the foundation of the two following stories.

The first story is about two sisters from the Westside of Chicago that were placed in foster care due to inadequate supervision and neglect by the mother. The girls were young and only a year apart in age, one five and one six. They desperately wanted to return home to their mother, who was able to keep custody of two of their siblings. They could never understand why the mother could keep two of their siblings and not them. Every weekend when I would transport them back to the foster home after a weekend visit with their mother and siblings, they would cry in my backseat as if their hearts were actually breaking. I worked with the birth mother to get her into the appropriate services when I was an intern and was awarded the Gabe Miller Scholarship. After graduating and becoming employed by my internship agency, I was officially assigned this family case. In total, I worked with this family for two and a half years and the mother completed her services, enrolled the children in school, took them to doctors' appointments, and secured an entire 4 bedroom house through Section 8. I vividly remember the final court date. I picked up the mother and her four children, ranging in ages from 18 months to 9 years old and we traveled to court. I testified for over an hour about all the services completed and the bond between the mother and her children. By the end, when the Judge made his final ruling to return the children home to their mother, all of the attorneys were crying, the birth mother was crying, the children were crying, I was crying, and even the Judge was teary-eyed through his congratulatory speech. It was a magical moment that happens too infrequently in foster care.

Another story comes from my work as a foster care crisis worker in Philadelphia. One night, I received a phone call from Kmart security officers explaining that two male, teenage foster children had been picked up for shoplifting. The security officer said that the police were on their way and that I needed to get there in a timely manner or else they would be spending time in juvenile detention. I stopped in the middle of dinner with my husband and responded to the crisis. The police were willing to release the minors into my custody instead of detaining them. The minors received tickets and fines and we completed the necessary paperwork. The two teenage boys were silent until they expressed their apologies to the Kmart staff members. I transported the minors from Kmart to their current foster homes and took the opportunity to process what had just happened. Due to their escalating behaviors, the following day I referred the minors for reevaluations of services needed. It may not seem like a large success story as the previous one mentioned, but keeping two teenage male foster children out of juvenile detention is a success worth celebrating.

I continue to be a proud Gabe Miller Scholarship recipient and I am very excited to see that the work the foundation does continues on. The scholarship was most helpful for me and I still have my certificate hanging in my office. Thank you to all of the donors and attendees at the dinner. Your generosity is noteworthy and touches many lives.

Thank you,

Lauren Higbee, LSW