Joy Nyhuis-Wing has been working with children and families for 21 years. She is currently a clinical case manager in Wisconsin. Amy Wempner, a mother who adopted four children from foster care, suggested that we feature Joy as an Outstanding Caseworker. Amy wrote:
“Joy has been our caseworker for all of the time we’ve been with Community Care Resources. She is an outstanding advocate for the children—she always figures out a way to connect with them. And she connects with us…She is so helpful in navigating this sometimes confusing and stressful journey. Anyone on her caseload is so fortunate to have her.”
Why do you think this mother felt compelled to suggest we profile you?
Amy was one of those foster parents who always wanted to learn about ways to support the children she was fostering, and I helped her with that. I did things like connect her with the Autism Society of Wisconsin when she was fostering a child on the spectrum and worked with her to address the attachment and trauma-related issues of another child in her home.
Do you see educating and counseling foster parents as a big part of your job?
Absolutely! And that can range from providing resources and information to just be letting parents vent. Sometimes people aren’t looking for an answer. Sometimes offering what you believe is a solution is not what a parent needs—at least at that moment. Sometimes the best thing you can do is listen—and maybe ask questions that help them work toward a solution.Foster parents have a very tough job and need to vent sometimes. And I just happen to be the person in front of them! Click To Tweet
What are the qualities of a good foster parent?
First of all, like Amy, a willingness to learn new things and acknowledge they don’t know everything—because nobody does!
Another thing that makes a great foster parent is someone who is willing to accept kids where they are—and apologize when they’ve done something wrong or gotten frustrated with a child. Parents who do that teach kids an important lesson: it is OK to make mistakes.
What have been the biggest things you’ve learned in 20 years of work?
I’ve learned so many things! It’s part of what keeps me doing this work. I’ve learned to sit back and think, rather than to react too quickly. To be more proactive and less reactive. To not take things personally. That is a big one. Foster parents are not angry at me. They have a very tough job and need to vent sometimes. And I just happen to be the person in front of them!
What else keeps you working with children and families?
It’s always an adventure, and every day is different. On one hand, there is always something new to try and somebody new to help. On the other, I love seeing how the kids I work with grow and change over time.
Last month, one of the first kids I worked with nearly 20 years ago—right after I graduated from college—texted me. He thought I wouldn’t remember him, but I did! He was one of those kids who came from a broken family and was really angry. At the time, I was trying to convince him that he didn’t have to follow in his parents’ footsteps—to be into drugs and alcohol. I was trying to paint a more positive picture of what his life could be.
And apparently I was successful! He said that because of my pushing him decades ago, today he is clean and sober. He owns his own business and has a family. He said he hunted me down because he wanted to thank me.