ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Human Canvas-in the darkness of childhood abuse and neglect-Volume 2-"The Dollhouse Watcher"

Updated on December 8, 2012

A Social Worker's Journal

Having been the program manager of a therapeutic foster care program, for over a decade, I was many things to many people. As crises arose I supported the families, the workers, and most of all the children (clients) in care. I was expected to hear all things, see all things, and much to my humbling heart, know all things. Then, one day, I realized that in some sense, I did. See and hear all things that is, at least in my world.

I had always seen myself as the agency investigator. The one who learned about things, and was asked to help solve case specifics. Not to jump to immediate conclusions, not to take first reports as gospel, nor to take sides before I got all the facts. I've always prided myself on fairness. I need all the facts from all involved before I feel confident in my decision-making. I guess that's how the analogy of being the "Dollhouse Watcher" came to be.

Whenever I had to explain my role in any case, I would use the dollhouse scenario as my leverage. I would describe how what I did equated to how a dollhouse is viewed. The "watcher" sits back and views what is going on in each room in the house, and then reports back to the members of the household what each other is doing in their space.

The skill became an art. And, so, I referred to myself as the "Dollhouse Watcher" and could easily explain to families and clients how I did what I did, what my job was, and the role I played in helping their family unit.

Over time, older clients would explain to younger ones, how I knew things and how what I learned from watching, could help them. It worked. They understood and through that understanding, they helped me, help them. Sometimes I wish I could have looked into real houses and worked magic, but, I do feel fortunate that I played the role of the "Dollhouse Watcher" for as long as I did, and was able to help one child, one family, at a time.

I have kept a diary of sorts, if you will. A social worker's journal of children who entered the foster care system on my watch, and who in essence, became my heroes. I will share their stories (their names changed for protection), so that awareness of this kind of abuse and neglect comes to the forefront of American life and is stopped cold in its tracks. If even one child at a time is helped, then we are on our way to creating a better quality of life for our youngest victims. Please read, please be aware, please react. For you may be called upon to save the life of a child one day.

Hailey's Story

I remember seeing her for the first time. Hailey was a cute, roly-poly, brown-haired, brown-eyed, eight year old, who wore crooked, taped-in-the-middle eyeglasses. Her clothes were rather tight on her and they didn't match. She had a chocolate stained chin and a smile that seemed forced on her face. She had a light in her eyes that seemed shadowed. She appeared friendly but guarded.

Her caseworker introduced her to me, and she immediately began to tell me how much she liked my hair and proceeded to throw her arms around me, telling me she loved me. It made sense even though it didn't seem right. I had been told that Hailey was diagnosed as having Enuresis (bladder control weakness), PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Attachment Disorder, and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), and that she was taking a variety of psychotropic medications for these conditions. It was also explained that she attended special education classes, liked to play with baby dolls, and had been a victim of physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse by, and allowed by, her birth mother. Her father was unknown. This little girl of eight years, was carrying a lot of baggage by the time she showed up on my agency's doorstep.

Hailey was my first "case" as a caseworker, and when I looked at her, recollecting the specifics of her case, my mind just couldn't, or wouldn't, wrap around what I had learned about her. How could a mother do that to her own child? A million questions ran through my mind, but no answers followed. And now, before me, stood this child. This victim. This little girl taken from her mother and sisters that she loved, and it was my job to introduce her to her new foster family and pretend to make it all better. I've never quit a job before. This time almost made it my first. But then Hailey ruined my plan to resign and escape, when she slipped her unsure, smaller hand into my adult one, and smiled at me.

There's the lesson-I was supposed to be her strength, but she became mine. I saw her as my angel that day, but I had needed to be hers. And so, I stayed. I stayed and watched as Hailey disrupted in foster home after foster home. In between her placements she managed to have some semblances of normal life. She went camping in the summer, decorated Christmas trees in the winter, kept a diary of her artwork, made friends in school, and made people laugh with her sweet charming way. But with it, also, came the tantrums, the property damage, the hitting, screaming, biting, and the anger. At times it poured from her eyes. Tears may have helped her to begin to heal, but the anger that poured out only made her more fearful. The more she feared, the more she pushed people away with her heart and her fists.

Counseling and therapy were only band-aids for the real healing that Hailey needed. Just when she started to trust her therapist, she would move to another foster home, and start the whole process over. She couldn' make gains. Then, she started remembering things. Foster parents had reported a pattern of Hailey not wanting to take baths. Over time it was discovered that she had reported having memories that her mom had once tried to drown her at bath time. She had remembered not being able to breathe, and fighting for air. She remembered kicking and hitting her mother to free her until she did, but Hailey refused baths after that. Of course she did. Now we could understand. So at last we were digging deep enough to find out the "whys", but now we had to deal with the "hows" of helping her to heal. She would make small gains, while in care, but something would always trigger another episode and SNAP-she'd go off again, usually taking her eyeglasses with her. (That's why her eyeglasses were always taped. She'd snap them in two when she had a fit of anger and it became an ongoing problem, so she just kept wearing the taped ones.)

She got used to people asking her about them, but she never shared the deep down pain that made her break them. The pain that she herself didn't want to "see". Hailey was so young. She never had a chance to figure it out. She just kept on reacting to the pain. Over and over again. Just like her new foster home placements-over and over again. She wouldn't allow herself to belong. Every time it got close, she snapped. They weren't her mom, her sisters, her family. No matter how much her old life hurt, it was hers, and she missed it. She missed them. She loved them-her family.

Hailey had her court-ordered, supervised visits with her birth mother. She celebrated birthdays, and holidays, under the auspices of the county and the watchful eye of her caseworker. But that was all she'd ever have in this childhood. She would never be allowed to spend her childhood at home, with her family, again. She would remain in care until she was eighteen. She would be safe, if nothing else.

I remember the day I had to drive Hailey to a residential program. There were no more foster homes for Hailey. No more chances to have a family. No family that could take the place of hers, so she decided she deserved to be alone. Her fate? Her decision? No-not really. Hailey's behavior had decided for her. Her pain had made sure she'd suffer even more. No family for Hailey. Not hers or anyone else's either.

A little girl alone-abused, neglected, abandoned-again. Where do those feelings go, anyway? They can be made to become bearable with a lifetime of therapy and/or psychotropic drugs, or substance and alcohol use can make them "go away" for a little while, or they can create the next chapter of abuse, neglect, and abandonment for Hailey's child. It doesn't go away. It disguises itself, or becomes a scar that's there to remind. It can also be tucked away like a bomb. Ticking, ticking, ticking, until one day there's an explosion.

I remember driving away that day. We hugged and cried and a little bit of both of us died. Hailey knowing it would be a long time, if ever, before she couldn't feel the loss, and myself, for having to leave her alone. She needed the help that I couldn't give her.

I never forgot Hailey. Her memory stays with me always. That cute, roly-poly, brown-haired, brown-eyed, eight year old, who wore crooked, taped-in-the-middle eyeglasses, and who was one of my greatest teachers-my own special angel.

Hailey, forgive us, for failing you.


Roly, poly, brown-eyed girl,

age of eight, her life's a whirl.

Broken glasses,

broken eyes,

broken heart,

all torn with lies.

Father's gone.

Her mom's a drunk.

She has to face,

her life, is junk.

Hugs and kisses,

just a dream.

This little child

emits no beams.

Her voice fell silent long ago.

Her bruised sore body,

keeps taking blows.

She cries for help

that never comes.

She folds and dies,

each day's so glum.

Dreary, gloomy,

life's a drag.

She'll start anew

from a body bag.

Kim Diaz 2012


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      you are an amazing writer. you keep me involved with your words and your message. your an angel not only for the children... but because you give and take... you took what you went through having to cope with these difficult'stories' and you turn around and try to make the cold word better somehow. its hard... but 1 by 1 a difference can be made, especially with angles like you

    • Kim Grbac Diaz profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Diaz 

      5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      ...I could never do it alone. I listen to God and He does a great job of showing me the way I need to go. Thanks to Him, I have the words to comfort when I need to, and the strength to do what I have to do, when I'm needed. Thanks again for your support jrd!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Dear Kim, Loved your hub! It's so hard for people and especially children, not only to have pyhsical problems but emotional/mental ones compounded. Thank God there are people like you who become part of the healing procces for those in need of help. Not only are you a dollhouse watcher but also a rescuer/gaurdianangel as well. God bless you.

    • Kim Grbac Diaz profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Diaz 

      5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      The memories...definitely molded us and gave me my mission in life from the children!

    • profile image

      Deb Small 

      5 years ago

      I can see this all happen. I was there they day Hailey arrived and the day that she left. I remember her telling you that her favorite color was yellow- the color of the blouse you were wearing. She was something!

    • Kim Grbac Diaz profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Diaz 

      5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Great informative library! Thanks for the elibrary of info to draw from. Keep writing!

    • krillco profile image

      William E Krill Jr 

      5 years ago from Hollidaysburg, PA


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)