Wednesday, March 28, 2012


The boys have lived with me about a month when their social worker 
(who shall remain nameless)
comes to visit.
We discuss the boys' adjustment, 
review summer plans,
and sign the monthly paperwork.
The appointment is almost over, 
when the social worker asks a question.
"So," she says conversationally, 
"Do you think they are salvageable?"

I am socked-in-the-stomach-stunned 
by her choice of words.
Salvageable is a word used to described
Overcooked casseroles, 
wrecked cars,
and ships that have sunk 
to the bottom of the ocean.
Salvageable is not a word 
that should ever be used to describe children. 

I think I manage to stammer
something to the effect ,
that of course they are salvageable.
They are children,
yes children, who have been through very hard times
and have the life bumps and bruises 
to show for it
but of course they are salvageable.
I would not be doing this
if I did not think that they were salvageable.

After thinking about it  for nine years, 
I think I might say, 

"When you talk about my children,
please feel free to use words like…
perhaps a little unpredictable.

You can use words like 
and remarkable
if you like. 

Hopefully someday you will describe my boys as

and of course, by then 
will definitely apply.

If you want to,
we can talk about a system,
Or maybe a society,
That allows children 
to suffer
As irresponsible
or reprehensible.

But please,
don’t ever ask again
if my children
or any others 
in my care

are salvageable.


Michelle said...

Oh, goosebumps! Don't you only wish you had this comeback right away with the descriptive and positive adjective choices?

Salvageable? Really? When talking about children? That's exactly what is wrong with our children and family services. We are dealing with little people with big, heavy luggage that's not theirs to carry, yet they do hold on so tightly. I'm thinking about so many kids right now that I'd love to take home . . . and you did it. You really, really did it. Wow, I just love your story!

Lisa said...

Awesome poem!

Franki said...

Oh my goodness? And this is a social worker--someone who is to be working in the best interest of the children? Your answer is brilliant. What a story. I can hardly speak after reading it.

Dana said...

Oh the anger I had when I read that word, but then I read your response and I smiled. A brilliant written response. I loved your words. They sang.

Janet said...

POWERFUL! This deserves to be performed by someone on stage. It reminds me of the poetry done by Taylor Mali. If you haven't heard his piece about teachers, you need to google it. I love, love, love this piece.

Anonymous said...

Oh! Oh, my! And this person works with children? I love the list of words you prefer instead. A wonderful list for children...wish they all had people use such words to them. You have blessed boys.

Katherine Sokolowski said...

Wow, that makes me sick to my stomach. I love what you wrote, of course, but the fact that she said that sickens me. So glad you are raising these boys.

Christy Rush-Levine said...

This response is just perfect, although I don't think the question that prompted it is salvageable.

I love, love, love your contrasting list of descriptive words for your boys.

Peg D said...

So powerful and beautiful. Your love and passion come through. Your boys are lucky. Something to keep for their scrapbooks for sure. Thank you for sharing.

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Oh wow...salvageable ... I am stunned. What a miracle that those boys came to you, and that you think of children in ways that matter.

Cathy said...

I am shocked that anyone whose job is advocating for children would use such a word. I love all the words you have suggested be used instead. I completely agree!

Nanc said...

powerful poem...your boys are 'able' in every single way- thank you for the way you love them...all of you are an inspiration to me xo nanc

Linda B said...

There are numerous things done behind our eyes that we never know until someone speaks up, like you Carol. I would hope that you also speak for every child, adopted or not. I have adopted children, my brother has three & he was told, with one that was older when adopted, that he could always give the child back if it "didn't work out". I guess that was what was meant by not salvageable. Your poem spoke volumes. I wish the world could 'hear' it. Thank you!

Karen said...

Such power and love exist in this poem. I love your descriptors of your boys! Shame on the unnamed social worker.