Dealing with Feelings of Inadequacy in the Truancy Court Program

By Courtney Ward, CFCC Student Fellow 2014-2015

Each week, law students involved in the University of Baltimore School of Law Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts Truancy Court Program (TCP) discuss at the weekly team meeting each of our TCP student’s cases and the deeper issues that students may be experiencing that result in truancy. This past week one of my fellow law school classmates bravely expressed that he feels inadequate to help the TCP students. We see these students once a week for an hour, and we talk about their goals, problems, and possible solutions, but is it helping? My classmate’s comment struck me because it’s a feeling I have from time to time. Some of the TCP students have issues that are hard to find solutions to, including illnesses in the family, poverty, and overcrowded houses. In these situations, what can we as law students do? One of my TCP student’s mothers was diagnosed with cancer, which required the student to miss school a few times last year. Situations like that are problematic because there is no quick and easy solution. Even with the “simpler” issues, such as being disruptive in class or poor grades, we direct the TCP students to coach classes and encourage them to get help. Nonetheless, there is always the lingering feeling that the work we do for the TCP students is not helping them.

I find myself not only wanting the TCP students to end their truant behavior, but I also want them to become scholars and leaders in their community–especially with the group of TCP students I have at Reginald F. Lewis High School. I see so much potential in these students and would love to see them achieve their short-term and long-term goals. Realistically, however, I understand that the students face so many hurdles, some of which are beyond the reach of my ability to assist. It’s a good feeling when we see the TCP students absorbing what we say in our one-on-one meetings at the TCP sessions, but I struggle with the thought, what happens when we leave?

In response to my classmate’s comment in our meeting, one of the TCP staff members simply stated, “We help the students more than we know.” It is so easy to feel as though you are not doing enough because some of the tougher problems are not solved immediately. I didn’t take time to consider, however, that my presence is helpful. For some of these students, the TCP provides the support and attentiveness they do not receive anywhere else. That statement put things in perspective for me. Nothing great is achieved overnight, and you never know how your actions may be positively affecting another person. Naturally, I still want the TCP students to end their truancy and achieve their goals, but I understand that things take time and that my help is not in vain. I look forward to continuing my work with the TCP because it is a huge step in the right direction for the students involved.

2 thoughts on “Dealing with Feelings of Inadequacy in the Truancy Court Program

  1. “Give it time.” This is a quote that a member of the TCP team bestowed upon me as I voiced my frustrations over the helplessness I felt when advising truant students. A week has passed and those frustrations have turned from negative to positive. Unfortunately not every student will be helped by the TCP program, but the ones that succeed truly make all the difference. The success of TCP was very evident after only counseling a student for three sessions. Not only has the student’s demeanor improved drastically, but his attendance has been prefect. Moreover, this student has now set career goals and is on the path to achieving them.

  2. We must remember the environment that many of the TCP participants come from. The ‘crumbling infrastructure’ that does them a disservice doesn’t end at the school walls. Whether its broken schools or broken homes, I think any feelings of inadequacy we might have pale in comparison to what the students go through, particularly when they are older and are more aware of their surroundings. Because that is the case, any impact we can have on them will be beneficial. It might be that we need to report a case to CPS or that a child needs further resources that we are unable to give them. Either way we can be a connection for that child and move the bar higher than it has been set. That bar is currently set so low that any improvement is positive. Hopefully, if a child sees that there are people invested in their success, they will be motivated to improve on their own when they go out into the world. Motivation is one of the most important things we can instill, because without it a child stuck in this system will succumb to its negative influences quickly.

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