Recent Developments

July 29, 2008

So a few things have been going on to chat about:

  • I have been trying hard to figure out the policies for relative placements for kids.  They seem to be a bit of a gray area.  Specifically a relative caregiver wants to get a babysitter so she and her husband can have a date every once in awhile.  Great!  But the trouble is figuring out what the potential babysitters need to do.  Fingerprints?  Background check without fingerprints?  Nothing?  And I can’t seem to get a clear answer and nor can my supervisor.  She has been doing this for 30+ years (and is good at all of it) and she isn’t sure and people she asks aren’t sure.  Frustrating for me and probably more frustrating for the relative.  Makes me think or wonder if they should (or already have) just have somebody they trust babysit.
  • I took off a bit early today.  I had family in town and decided that I have put in some comp time and it is important for me to spend time with family.  So I left.  (I am sure many readers of this blog are probably pleased with this…)
  • And tomorrow is a big meeting with Blue.  She has had some of her visits canceled because she has had too many no shows.  So we have brought in the hired gun – our supervisor – and I think she is going to get a strong talking to.  This should be interesting because both me and the other worker have not been very confrontational with her thus far.  I am curious to see how she reacts.  I am not expecting to say anything during the meeting – just be a witness and student of the process – and I think I like it that way.

Talking About Burnout

July 28, 2008

Now that I am a few months into my job, I feel like I can answer the question, “how’s the job?” a little bit better.  This is a question that I have been getting a lot and especially from my family.  The honest answer is I am much more afraid about burning out.  Not that I didn’t think it was a risk, I am just realizing that it is a much greater risk and I am nervous about how to deal with it.

So I have been telling people – again, mostly my family – this response.  Now, the only thing that I am really looking for is some validation:  “Wow, that must be scary.”  “That sounds tough.” etc.  However, what I have been getting has been (mostly from my mother): “Well, what did you expect?” “You knew this going in.” “This is what you wanted.”  and “Yep, social workers burn out fast.”  Is this an indication of understanding that I can expect from the people around me???

Anger at parents

July 17, 2008

I haven’t spoken about Blue in awhile.  As a recap, Blue has 3 kids – 1, 4, and 9 – and they are placed in different places, the 4 year-old with his alleged father and the other two in different foster homes.  The kids came into care for general, medical, and educational neglect and the more time we have spent with her, the more we have learned about various cons and aliases she has gathered.  She is fascinating and has some significant mental health issues (I can’t wait to read a psych eval, but I am pretty sure she has a personality disorder, most likely Borderline, among other issues).

So what has been going on lately?  We had a home visit last week and she subsequently missed a visit with the 4 year old.  So this week, she missed her visit with the 4 year old again and he was upset again.  I got an email just afterwards from Blue saying that she was confused by the time and tried calling but neither I or the other worker was in the office (she didn’t leave a message, but did speak up with the back up worker of the day).  And she asked if she could see him again this week because she missed and loved him and requested that he also be brought to the group visit with his siblings (which is at least an hour drive each way).

So the other worker did think it was important that the 4 year old go to the visit and so she drove him down yesterday.  And she DID NOT SHOW!  This is an extremely frustrating situation for a number of reasons.  One, it is really hurtful for the 4 year old.  Two, the worker’s time is extremely valuable and it was essentially wasted by this mother no showing (although the boys did get to spend time together).  Finally, it is really difficult to believe much of anything that she says when she claims to want to see them and love them and within an hour and then within 24 hours just not show up.

And being in touch with my feelings about this I realized that I am really angry at Blue for all of this.  I don’t like being lied to.  I don’t like being taken advantage of.  I don’t like to see kids hurt.  So I have to be very careful with my feelings.  Yesterday the way I handled it was not responding.  I received the email and knew that it would not be good to respond to the email.  I just forwarded it on to the other worker and waited until I could talk to her.  But it is tough – I don’t get angry very often, almost never – but I need to make sure that my feelings stay in check because I am the professional.

More thoughts on Academy

July 17, 2008

I have almost finished my second week of Academy, so I think can add more thoughts:

  • I think I have mentioned before that I was surprised by how few people had MSWs (especially compared to my office). And that is coming through in the classes. I feel that they are rather elementary and I am not learning much that is new, when it comes to theory and general social work.
  • I am a little surprised by the Dept.’s emphasis on strengths-based social work. While I have realize this is the general direction that general social work has taken, it is very interesting that it is being applied to a state child welfare agency. In a field that is focused on the problems that parents have, it is interesting to try to partner with them. I think it is a good move, but can be very difficult considering the time restraints and natural adversarial relationship that exists. For those interested, the theory we are being taught is based on the book, Solution Based Casework.
  • To be blunt, I am disappointed by some of the other people in Academy with me. Many are not as sharp as I would like them to be and a few I have no idea how they were hired after an interview. I guess I realize more now that there are some poor social workers out there and that is unfortunate – for me and for clients.

10:00 pm

July 17, 2008

Last night I worked until 10:00 pm because I had 2 court reports due. And the scary thing was I was not the last one to leave the office. There were two other social workers still at the office (one from my unit) who did not look like they were leaving as I headed out the door. I wasn’t thrilled about staying for so long, but I didn’t feel like I had much choice about it – these reports were due at 11 am this morning to the court, and I had to be at Academy during the day. Which I think is the main culprit – I have to be at Academy during the day and I can’t work on the stuff that is still needed to be done. This is why I am not supposed to have cases, but at the same time I don’t mind doing this in an attempt at lightening my colleagues’ loads.

Will I work until 10 again? Probably. I am certainly not the first and won’t be the last. Yet, it seems that social workers’ commitments to their job (this being just one example), continues to go unnoticed. But I am not here for the glory, right? I just might get a little offended when I get accused of being lazy or neglectful…

Social Work and Race

July 9, 2008

Today in training, they were talking to us about some common values/traits in different kinds of families.  Well, they did not do the greatest job ever (although not awful either) and so we launched into a conversation about race, how we approach different families, and theories about why Black and Native American children are overly represented in the child welfare system.

So this got me thinking: does any other profession discuss race as much as social workers?  A core class in all MSW programs is a diversity/ cultural competency/ racism class.  Does any other profession have this?  Not that I can think of.  And I am glad that we do.  It is an important class and important topic for social workers to be thinking and talking about all the time.  Of course, it is not easy because we as a society have difficulty talking about it.  So maybe we social workers can be a sort of group of leaders on this front.

Academy vs. the Office

July 8, 2008

Today I went to Academy (training) for the morning, then left at lunch to go to the office and do some real work. And it really was quite the contrast. The morning was laid-back, I was very passive, mostly relaxed, and almost bored, wanting the clock to go faster. There were a couple of things that I did learn that I might use sometime, but I didn’t really feel guilty about leaving at lunch.

So I hopped in my car and drove across town to the office where I met up with a colleague and we went to Blue’s house for a homevisit. We got there on time, which was important for my colleague because Blue is rarely on time. We met the CASA there and I was glad that she came along (and is on the case). Blue and her “fiance” (looks too young to be a fiance to a 33 year old) did not answer the door at first, although we could hear them and the CASA had already said hello to them. They finally let us in, looking frantic, saying they just broke a glass and were cleaning it up.

Now, many past roommates can attest to the fact that I am not a particularly clean person. I am not disgusting, but I am nowhere close to being a neat freak and can stand a bit of dirt and disorder here and there. In other words, it takes a bit for me to say that something is dirty. And this house was dirty. It didn’t look like they had ever vacuumed (and I am someone who thinks you only have to do it every month or so), the furniture and rugs were all stained and filthy, and it was a bit in chaos. And this was a planned visit (about a week’s notice). There is no way that it was clean enough for a baby or toddler to be in.

Blue talked for the hour, throwing out story after story. A couple of them, either the CASA or the caseworker challenged her on, but not too much. I think everyone can see that this is going to trial, and really, that is the best place for everything to come out. (And when I say trial, I mean a trial to determine if the kids should become “dependents” of the state, giving the state more longer term authority. This, however, does not terminate her parental rights – that comes a bit farther down the road if deemed necessary.)

To top it all off, Blue stated that she would blow off a job interview to go to her visit with her son (which she also knew about the previous week). However, she didn’t show and her very cute 4 year old was very disappointed that he did not get to see her.

After that I got a bit slammed by work. A new referral (allegation of maltreatment) came in on one of my new kids who is living with grandparents. So I was talking with the CPS workers about it and what they saw (not much). There was also trying to track down a provider that I haven’t heard from at all and finally getting the voicemail of her supervisor. There was writing a letter to a criminal court on behalf of a client and her lawyer wanting me to put more and more in there while mine was telling me to keep it short and simple. There was trying to rearrange visits that have not been going well with a different client. And finally doing a homevisit on my own of the little girl with the new referral (which had already been planned).

And it was so different at the office than Academy. I was moving a hundred miles an hour. I was doing about 5 things at once and being pulled in lots of different directions. It is like being at a busy urban ER on a Friday night. Except, the work I don’t finish, still has to be done at some point. Unlike the ER, there is no one coming in on the next shift to make sure everything is done. It is just me, trying to get it all done. But there are aspects of that that I like – as masochistic as that is.

And I think I will leave the office politics, staff changes for another day. Sigh.