Saturday, August 23, 2008

Faith or Stupidity?

Where is the line between the two? It's something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

I go into children's homes to work with them as part of my job. When I first considered taking this job, I wondered if that was really safe. After all, there are good homes, and then there are not so good homes. But my fears were quickly allayed once I got started. I discovered that even in the not so great homes, I was welcomed.

Sure, I was occasionally cussed out when calling someone, or when appearing on the doorstep for the first time, because they'd think at first I was a bill collector or a welfare officer or CPS coming after them. But always, their entire demeanor changed the moment I told them who I was, and they were apologetic and very welcoming. After all, I was there to help their child (and not by taking him away from them!) And I discovered that there is something universal about parenthood. I'm sure there are some exceptions, but I've not met an exception yet: Parents love their kids. Even bad parents, even abusive or neglectful parents... they still love their kids. They don't always know the right way to show it due to their own issues, but they do love them. And once I figured that out and saw how I was treated at these homes, I've never been afraid.

However, a recent event has shaken me a little and caused me to wonder if perhaps I should be afraid. A woman doing a very similar job to mine was killed on a visit by the parents of the child she was working with. She had been there several times and was not afraid. Yes, those parents were mentally ill, but I have lots of families that I work with where one or both parents suffer from mental illness. It makes for some really interesting stories sometimes, but I never thought about how it might be dangerous for me.

The early intervention community is all abuzz over this, of course. There is discussion about not returning to any home where you feel unsafe. Okay, but then that begs the question -- what makes you feel unsafe? As I said, I've never felt unsafe at a family's home, though looking back with this event in mind, I can think of some that perhaps I should have felt unsafe at. And this woman didn't feel unsafe at the home where she was killed.

There has been talk about pepper spray. Others have stated you wouldn't have time to get it out and release the trigger and it's pointless, but it seems to me that you might have the chance depending on how the dangerous situation would come about, and better to have it just in case. And yet, I've not purchased any. I guess I feel silly carrying it, though I know I shouldn't.

And this is where the issue of faith comes into play. God has protected me through all my home visits. As I said, there are probably some that really were quite dangerous. There was one home where I felt very uncomfortable, but not frightened, due to repeated sexual remarks from the father of the child. After this happened with this other lady, it occurred to me to look at the sex offender registry to see if any of my families were on it, and there were several that I've had in the past, and this particular father apparently spent ten years in prison for rape. Splendid. I can't tell you the number of times I was in the house alone with him and his toddler. But God protected me. (And fortunately I discovered this information a week after we had exited the child from the program, so I never had to go back!)

So. Do I trust God to protect me from these dangerous situations and go about my job as I have for the past few years, or do I take added precautions due to the situation with this other woman? Where is the balance between trusting God and taking precautions? Just how cautious should a Christian be? Obviously we don't throw caution to the wind and just do any stupid thing we take a notion to do and expect God to protect us -- so where's the balance? Do I stop going into homes altogether and take a different job? Do I limit myself to homes of a certain caliber (and where even is the measuring point with that?)? Not take any child whose parent has a mental illness (and while most of them come right out and tell us, we don't always know!) or who has a criminal record involving battery, rape, or murder (we definitely don't usually know that)? None of that seems right to me.

And so I plod along, doing what I've always done, and trusting God to keep protecting me, and yet wondering if doing what I've always done is the right thing.

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