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Second-generation Social Workers

June 20, 2009 permalink

An article planted by children's aid touts the successful career starts of two former Brantford crown wards. Both are beginning careers in social work, matching the aspirations of nearly half of the foster children in Bridgeway Family Homes. Maybe those children with the personality traits suiting them for dominator professions (policeman, social worker, soldier, lawyer) flourish in foster homes, while those with personality traits suiting them for productive professions (most of the rest) are destroyed by foster care. The few anecdotal success stories tell nothing of the success and failure rates. Jessie McVicar reports that of the group of 34 foster children he grew up with, three are still alive, and two of them are in jail.



Former Crown ward turns life around


Not all of Jodie Keeso's scars are on her soul.

When street kids meet the former Crown ward of the local Children's Aid Society they can't help but see that Keeso's inner arms are a healed mess of self-inflicted cuts and burns.

Today, Keeso, 24, has not only found healing, but she preaches it.

A youth counsellor with New York State's Freedom Village, a home for troubled teens, Keeso has risen above her early life in a remarkable way.

Back in Brantford on Monday night, she was honoured by the Children's Aid Society with the T. Dixon Moor award at the agency's annual general meeting.

The award goes to a former ward who has reached a high level of personal achievement.

"I'm so proud of the work that she does and the person that she has become," Ronnie Littlewood, Keeso's former social worker, said in her nomination statement.

"She has taught me that no matter how bleak and dark a person's situation may be, we must never give up hope and never give up trying."

Keeso's name will go on a brass banner in the lobby of the Arthur Binkley Family Resource Centre on Henry Street. She received $1,000 from the CAS endowment fund.

Born in Huntsville, Keeso ended up in Brantford almost a decade ago after being moved out of a poor family life.

She started mutilating herself, binging on drugs, and moving in and out of seven local foster homes. Along the way there were detox programs, psychiatric wards and a rehabilitation facility.

"After Brantford, it got worse and worse," she said. "I was a mess. I ended up in Toronto, shooting dope and working the streets."

That's where the Youth for Christ program found her and took her on a bus tour of Freedom Village in the U. S., where she opted to stay. Cleaned up and committed to Jesus Christ, Keeso finished school, began travelling with a Freedom Village singing group and went on outreach programs to help other street kids.

"I was there," she emphasizes. "I was one of those messed up kids."

Now a counsellor in a girls dorm, Keeso tries to help teens recognize they don't have to go down the same road that she did before getting help.

And she had an important message for her old social workers in Brantford, especially Littlewood, her first intake worker who never gave up on her.

"A lot of social workers can get discouraged. My worker used to shake her head and cry! Kids in the system are angry and are full of trouble but I hope to encourage the workers out there to keep loving them --it's the love that will set a kid free."

Littlewood said that she clings to Keeso's example of how messed up kids can turn around their lives.

"There have been too many years and too many social workers who are often disheartened that the work we do results in nothing positive," wrote Littlewood.

"These kids can move mountains. They can live extraordinary lives. Jodie will always remain my shining light of evidence that we never give up hope."

Keeso agreed, urging people to recognize that teens don't get messed up on their own and can't recover on their own either.

"Never give up. It was Jesus Christ that saved me and set me free from my addictions, but it was the people around me that helped."

The CAS also recognized Elise Hall, another former Crown ward, who has graduated from college.

Hall, now 20, was taken in by the CAS when she was 16. At age 18, when most Crown wards are released from protection, Hall was put under an extended care program so the agency could continue to help with her education.

"I couldn't have afforded to get here on my own," said Hall. "If it wasn't for them, half of what I've accomplished wouldn't have happened. They really helped me get where I am today."

Hall, who now lives in Hamilton, was in four foster homes in Brantford before going to college to become a personal support worker program. She plans to work with seniors because she feels they don't always get the care they deserve.

"I thanked all my workers and my foster parents. I'm really appreciative that they did this for me."

Source: Brantford Expositor