Q&A: Nearly 10 Years In The Child Welfare Space

As our Foster Care and Adoption Coordinator, Yvonne Rodriguez manages foster homes in which our kids are placed. Her primary goal is to ensure that each child is safe and has all their basic needs met. While earning her B.A. in Marketing at the University of Texas Pan-American (now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley), she attended a career fair and first learned about job opportunities in adoption and foster care. Before joining the Arms Wide family, Yvonne worked at Child Protective Services where she discovered her passion to find forever families for kids.

We snagged Yvonne for a Question & Answer segment, so she could tell us more about what she has learned from nearly 10 years in the child welfare space.

What initially drew you to work in the child welfare space?

When attending a job fair during my senior year of college, I spoke with the recruiter for Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).  I had so many questions for him, and he told me I’d be great working as an investigator if that was my true personality. That’s how it all started.

Tell us a little bit about your experience in the space.

I worked for Child Protective Services (CPS) investigations for five years as an investigator with specialization in ages 0-4 Intensive Physical Abuse Unit. I would be the initial person who would come in and assess the safety of these children and would remove these children from their unfit parents if necessary. After that, I wasn’t involved in what happened throughout the duration of the case. I didn’t like that. I wanted to know what happened at the end, like did these children go back to their parents or did they go to a safe loving home and get adopted? So I decided to start looking at work for adoption agencies. Plus, I wanted to learn a different side of this world. Now, I’ve been doing foster care and adoption for 4 years.

When did you realize child welfare was the space you were meant to work in?

The first few months of doing my job, when I was working for DFPS, was always a scary experience, and I often questioned myself if I was doing the right thing. I never pictured myself ripping a family apart, taking children from their parents, and uprooting their whole life. But there was this moment when I got up to speak to a lawyer and a judge, and then they said to me “your affidavit is strong, its good, you did everything and more to try to explore options to keep this child from entering the DFPS system as a foster child.” I felt at peace with my decision, and I was able to confidently say, “OK, I’m going to be good at my job.”

With adoptions, it was easy to know that was for me. Being able to complete a family’s wish to become parents or giving a child a forever family is the biggest blessing I could wish for anyone.

You worked for five years doing CPS investigations. What did you learn?

I learned so much from working with CPS. It was my first real job out of college so everything from job skills to court systems were subjects that were all covered by CPS. The biggest takeaway was learning how to speak with people of different personalities.

For half of the time you spent doing investigations, you specialized in intensive child abuse. Can you tell us a little more about that?

All of my cases were coming in for children under the age of 4 who were nonverbal, which made them more vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Typically, I investigated children with skull fractures, broken bones, Shaken baby, and any type of unexplained injuries. I’d work with Dr. Donaruma from Texas Children’s Hospital and Dr. Girardet from Memorial Hermann who were the child abuse specialist doctors. They were incredible and always made sure I understood why they felt it was an abusive case. When there is medical proof that there is child abuse going on, it’s hard for a parent to dispute that in court.

If you could tell biological parents one thing, what would it be?

I would tell them that there is always help out there for them.  They just have to reach out to someone to find the best resources to help them, because they are caring for themselves and having to raise their child the best way they can.

What does it mean to now be working as an Foster Care / Adoption Coordinator?

Being an Adoption Coordinator is very fulfilling. It is my priority to ensure every placement we make is a great match for everyone involved. The end goal is always going to be helping a child find their forever family.

Does it feel like your role in the child welfare space has come full circle?

No, I think there are more roles that I see myself doing in the future. I would eventually like to be able to speak with adoptive children about their CPS case history. A lot of times when adopted children grow up, they don’t know why they couldn’t stay with their biological parents. They only understand that CPS decided it was not in their best interest. I want to be real with them and review their case files so they really understand why it wasn’t the best space for them to grow up in.

If you could tell adoptive parents one thing, what would it be?

I would tell them you have to be patient, and open to change. There are still times that I say, “I’ve never heard of that with CPS,” because there are always some changes going on.

Tell us a little bit more about what you do here at Arms Wide Adoption Services?

As a Foster Care / Adoption Coordinator, we are very involved in the lives of our children and families. I attend all of the court hearings to get information related to their case and in some cases, we do testify. I speak with the children’s attorneys, CASA volunteers, and their CPS workers to get the best plan for these children. We also have to ensure that when these children come into our homes that they live in a loving environment. We support our foster parents by providing them with resources needed when their children need therapy or school resources. While there is much more to my job than this, I always consider the above to be the most important for my families and children.

What’s your favorite part about your job now?

I have a few favorite things about my job, and one of them is building a relationship with my foster parents and children. Another is watching how these children can grow and flourish and thrive when they are in the right environment. And of course, I think the actual adoption itself is the best part.

Yvonne and some her wonderful Arms Wide families!

Thanks for sitting down with us, Yvonne!