Photography Exhibits

Photo from "Fighting to Care: California's Social Workers SEIU 535"
Exhibit at U.C. Berkeley Institute of Industrial Relations 1/15-7/15 2002, photo 6 of 12

Social Worker Valerie Golden (right) with Stephany (1998)

"When you are smoking crack-cocaine you aren't even aware of your kids....I couldn't see my future.
It took someone like Valerie to show me the way."
- Stephany

When Monterey County children's services worker Valerie Golden got Stephany's case, Stephany felt that she had no future. She had already lost her first set of kids, and was about to lose her last remaining son, whom she had voluntarily given up to the system because she felt she was unable to take care of him. "I was doing so much drugs that I didn't want my son around. I brought up my other two kids in a drug environment and I didn't want him in it."

Unlike many of the people in the system, Stephany came from a wealthy family. "My dad had nice cars and airplanes. We used to go flying. But that is the thing about crack-cocaine. It doesn't matter where you come from. You get introduced to it and it will bring you down. When you are smoking you aren't even aware of your kids. You can be smoking right in front of them, or lock yourself in a room and leave them out there with no food, no clothing, no nothing. You don't care."

Stephany had already failed a previous reunification attempt and a drug recovery program. "When I first met Stephany, I didn't feel she was being honest," recalls Golden. "But then I saw her change and a different Stephany emerge. She would come in crying and tell me what was going on. Then she started to become more genuine and to look more healthy."

As in many social work cases, the turning point was a crisis and Golden's ability to be there for Stephany in her moment of need. "I was having a conflict with my partner, a domestic dispute, and the sheriff was there," Stephany explained. "I called Valerie and she came right over to make sure my child was safe. Having her support, right there in the moment, it really made a difference."

With Golden's help Stephany continued therapy, completed a residential drug treatment program, and was able to reunify with her children.

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