It is the end of the month, which often incites some “oh sh*t” moments – mostly, oh, sh*t I haven’t done a home visit with one of my kids. So I end up going out and seeing lots of my kids, which, is actually really nice. I have lots of little kids – babies and toddlers – so it is amazing to go out and see the amazing progress they are making. And, I believe, that this has made me much happier about my job. The distance between all my kids is awful – I have a kid 50 miles north of my office and another 50 miles south (and I am in an urban area) – but ultimately, it is great to get out of court and the office and just make funny faces with little kids. I guess it is getting back to the basics and what this job is really about. And it is nice to be reminded of that.
Back when I was in undergrad, a few of us social work majors joked that there were three guarantees in social work:
- You would not be appreciated.
- You would be underpaid.
- You would burn out.
Now further into my career, with a bit of experience under my belt, I still think that these guarantees are correct. However, I don’t think that I understood the gravity of them back in college. I knew that they would be hard, but I did not understand or feel how bad they are.
Appreciation: I have to say that it is really tough to not only have really hard work go unnoticed, but it is even more infuriating to be falsely accused of not doing the job, or worse, doing something because of some alternative agenda, where I am just out to get someone. Now I am not someone who needs to be told how great I am and then publicly receive some award, a la the Oscars. But to be told that I am doing the opposite of what I feel that I am setting out to do is frustrating and disheartening. Intellectually, I know that this is usually coming from a place of desperation and frustration, but it cuts deep into my feelings. I can see how this may really start to wear on me.
Compensation: Now I am not under some illusion that we live in a meritocracy, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t be frustrated that we aren’t. It is frustrating to be told by people “wow, that is really hard work,” etc. to my face, but then for society as a whole to show the profession disrespect through poor wages. As the economy is shaky and I am swimming in student loan debt, I wonder if I made the right decision in going into social work. I could have easily gone into something less stressful and more lucrative and been both financially and professionally successful.
Burnout: This one is scaring me more and more. Not just because I am feeling it being more inevitable and closer than I thought it would be, but when I think of burn out happening and my having to move on to something else, it makes me concerned that I will have wasted time and energy in building a career that didn’t take me far. And then what? Will I even be left with any skills that can transfer over to anything else?
Writing all of this makes me realize how dismal my state of mind is, but I guess that is where I am at.
I knew this was going to happen, but I was still dreading it. One of my cases going to trial. Essentially cases go to trial when we (the Dept. and the parents) cannot come to an agreement on a legal proceeding, usually for dependency or termination of parental rights. In this case, the parents of my shaken baby are not agreeing to dependency on their newest child that we removed at birth.
The Dept. (and I) are of the opinion that these parents seriously injured a child, have not admitted to it or the gravity of her injuries, and have not participated in the services they agreed to to address their “parental deficiencies”. So we are going to trial. This is a pretty nerve-wracking experience. My lawyer has been prepping everything for the trial and calling the past social workers, who of course come to me and ask what is going on. They are all going to be called as witnesses, as will I. So I have been going over all of my case records and remembering what I did on the case over time (which is really hard!) and trying to mentally prepare myself to be cross-examined. It is hard not to have pictures of Law & Order or A Few Good Men go through your head and not wonder how you will do or if they will break you. I hope not!
And scheduling is a huge pain, because I have to be at the trial the entire time, which means I cannot do anything on my other cases, so I am trying to get colleagues to cover my other hearings and trying to make sure that I have nothing majorly pressing on my other cases.
So I was originally told that trial was to start on Monday, 1/26, but wouldn’t know for sure until after the case scheduling conference that happened the Thursday afternoon before. I then learned that it would happen downtown in a different courthouse and start on Tuesday. So I am all prepped for Tuesday until one of the parent’s attorneys asks for a one-day continuance due to illness, which everyone agrees to (although he still works and is in hearings for other cases – whatever). So I dry clean my one suit and haul the case files on a bus and go downtown Wed. morning. Most of us are ready but the parents are 30 minutes late, which is typical of them. Unfortunately, so is one of our translators, and we cannot proceed without her. I am in charge of scheduling translators (yep, along with everything else) and I would have been worried about not doing something correctly, if it wasn’t that I spoke to her personally on Monday to inform her about Tuesday’s continuance. I call, no answer. We all wait and wait and wait. I am pissed because this makes me look bad. She finally arrives 2 hours late! because she had double-booked. Fortunately, the judge lays into her a bit, so I do not have to. And we start trial.
Except we don’t. The parents’ attorneys ask for a continuance because we just received a psych report on the dad and they want more time to review it. The lawyers (all three!) have the most long-winded arguments I have ever heard. Why isn’t there a time limit on them? Seriously, they need to get more concise!
The judge grants their motion and we are delayed for about a month (although with some meetings in between). And it was probably the right decision, as they probably do need time to review the report. And it was nice for me to go back to the office and be able to work on stuff without anything scheduled. And maybe this will increase our chances of having the case settle, which would just be so much easier. But what a stressful process!