Personal Attacks

So we had the meeting with the family I spoke about in the last post in which the grandmother lied to me about the whereabouts of the child.  Overall the meeting went well, although the mother and grandmother showed up almost an hour late (and we purposed had the meeting across the street from their house so it would be convenient for them).  I wanted to move the child to his paternal side of the family and we were able to all agree to that.  In coming to that decision, however, the mom found some opportunities to attack me personally (which were all completely unrelated to the issue, I may add).  And I found my responses to this interesting.

First, I my physical and immediate reaction, was to just sit there and take it.  I am a professional and I need to act like one.  And we had meeting facilitators to be there to redirect mom back onto the actual topic – not me, but if she agreed with moving the child to the paternal grandmother.  (Mom’s lawyer was also there to try to keep her on task too, which was interesting, because I do not think that she was recognizing what he was trying to do for her.)

So I am sitting in this meeting and listening to these jabs she is throwing at me, and in my mind, I am also like, what the heck?  I don’t deserve this kind of treatment.  I am working my butt off to try to do what is right and help you and your son, and your response is to just take pot shots at me?  But then I think about it, and have to realize that this isn’t really about me, this is about her.  She is frustrated and sad and angry that she does not have custody of her son right now, who she loves.  And let’s be honest, I am a really good and easy scapegoat to take this out on.  So when I look at it that way, it doesn’t surprise me.

I am realizing that I am going to need to develop a thicker skin.  But is that also how social workers get jaded?  I guess there is a balance somewhere there where one is able to take some punches, but is also not devoid of feelings and emotions.  This seems to be a tough balance to strike.  And I am realizing how this job just cannot be done for 30 years.  Not child welfare as a whole, because there are lots of different jobs that one can do in the field, but this front line work can just really take a toll.  It is just not sustainable.  It makes me kinda sad to say that, but I think it is a reality.  I wonder if there are ways to try to fix that and I guess maybe I should try to look at some of the literature on it.  If only I had the time…


8 Responses to Personal Attacks

  1. antiSWer says:

    Ah, the literature on burnout is a lot of fun. I’ve done a little bit of work on it in my undergrad. I even started preliminary planning for a group on it.

    Take care of yourself.

  2. I’ve read some of the stuff on burnout, to be honest, I found it boring, but that’s just me. Now that I’m actually working though… I get insulted SO much. I’m actually planning to write about that this morning, and have been for a couple days. It gives me SO much more of an understanding of how social workers get jaded.

  3. Reas says:

    I’m glad you were able to keep your wits about you and realize the anger was about her and not you. Nice job. It IS hard to do, however, Sit there and “take it”. Which is why we have colleagues with whom to debrief after the storm: they can listen to you bitch and then build up your spirits again with praise and encouragement.

    As for child welfare burnout, I totally get it.

  4. illusivejoy says:

    It was nice to hear your thoughts. I have been wrestling with similar thoughts and feelings about getting jaded and how long I can do this work…..It is so tough. I need to blog about that too, it is weighing heavily.

  5. Shantified says:

    Hey Lady,
    Sounds like you’re doing a tough job but I can’t imagine a better person for it. Be sure to do what you can to take care of yourself too. That’s the best way to assure you’re doing the best job for those kids you care about so much. Hope all is well.

  6. cb says:

    Yeah, this rang a bell with me too. It can be a delicate balance between acquiring a thick skin but still retaining compassion. Like Reas said, colleagues can be enormously helpful – because they know what it’s like.
    I’m more inspired to write more than the embryonic burnout post I currently have in my ‘draft’ folder.

    Take care.

  7. ej says:

    Thick skin or a birds eye view of the situation? I think you already have the later. Now you saw I read your blog – I hope this doesn’t mean we can’t still have these conversations over a pitcher.

  8. illusivejoy says:


    I used to think I could do this for 30 years. Not anymore.

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