The 13 Hour Day

December 10, 2008

Today I worked for 13 hours, but the crazy thing is it doesn’t feel as exhausting as I think a 13 hour day sounds. But it was a jam-packed day, so a quick recap of my day:

  • court review hearing on an abandoned baby. Fortunately, they realize that I will be quick and put us in first and I am only there for an hour – not the usual 3 hours.
  • I had planned a home visit near the court house, but it is canceled due to a relative being gravely ill. Head back to the office.
  • Read emails and check in a co-worker who is doing homestudies on some of relative placements.
  • Call parent with phone interpreter to set up final psych eval appointment with parenting observation component. Call psychologist to confirm.
  • Get call from a TANF social worker requesting info about a mom who is applying for benefits and saying her son is with her. He is not, but taking this call reminds me…
  • …to fax substance abuse eval to TANF worker on another case that I didn’t get to yesterday.
  • Chat with unit members about a colleague leaving, a new worker in the unit, and the overall status of the unit (very important!)
  • Try calling client, but phone “temporarily out of service” which I now know means that they are out of minutes.
  • Quick lunch with a colleague. (Whole Foods has the best salad bar! So expensive, yet so yummy!)
  • Drive across town to go to a seminar about evidenced based practices for parents involved in child welfare. I try not to get offended by the obvious digs at social workers.
  • Drive to do home visit, which takes me more than an hour and a half to get there! Grrr. This is with my shaken baby and her baby brother. They look cute and are progressing, but she still has so many developmental issues. Foster parents are great, and a little chatty.
  • Drive an hour to do another home visit/meeting – stupid rush hour traffic and not transferring cases even when everyone moves out of region. This is the second referral that has come in the last 2 months on three little kids with their parents that got them back in the summer. After lots of discussions yesterday, it my opinion (and, really, decision) that we didn’t need to move the kids immediately. The parents had missed another doctor’s appointment and haven’t been taking the appointments seriously enough. However, they have been doing well in lots of other realms – drug treatment, UAs, working with in-home providers. A bunch of us are there, and I let them know that I had to convince others yesterday not to move the kids, but if they miss another appointment, we will have to. I try to be clear and straightforward, so they understand the gravity of the situation; yet, I also want to be supportive and identify strengths, because this family does have some. (Also, I have to deal with some posturing from a worker from the region that the family is in who insinuates that I am not doing my job and is frankly, a bit old-fashioned. Overall, I think I handle it well, but I wonder if he (or someone else) contacts my supervisor to check in about all of this).
  • Drive the 45 minutes home – fortunately there is no longer traffic – and arrive just after 9 pm and around 140 total miles.

Power

May 7, 2008

This is something that I am going to have to grapple with constantly with this job, yet it was part of the reason I took it. Power. The lack of it really bothered me in my last job. I felt that I was in a very good position to make decisions, but the most that I could do was make recommendations. And those, well, were mostly ignored. But in this job, I am smack dab in the middle of the decision-making and power.

Example: Today a baby came into our CPS (child protection services) unit*** after the mother abandoned it at the hospital through the Safe Haven law. Many states have a similar law – in essence, a parent can leave a baby at a designated location (hospital, police station) which is meant to prevent a baby from being left in a dumpster. The caveat in Washington is that the law only protects the parent from prosecution, so we will be interviewing the mother tomorrow to gather more information (and check on the welfare of her other child). So we need to place this child and we have the opportunity to look at families that are possible pre-adoptive homes. Therefore, a group of 5 of us looked at 5 adoption/foster family home studies and picked a first choice and a second choice homes for this baby. And just so we are clear, the 5 of us in a room, potentially decided who this baby’s lifelong family will be and which of these families that have been waiting a long time for a child, will finally get one (and a healthy newborn at that!) Fortunately, I feel like I am up to the responsibility of this kind of power.

I also experienced a little bit of the downside of having said power – not everyone is thrilled at those that have it. In the afternoon, I supervised a visit with a mother who has a extensive drug addiction problem with her two children, aged 5 and 14 months. Understandably, the mother was not thrilled at having me hang around for 2 hours and it was interesting to sit with that animosity.

Again, I am sure I get to deal with all of this much more in the future!

*** We have different kinds of units. CPS (child protective services) do the short-term, investigative work. CWS (Child welfare services), which I am a part of, does more of the ongoing work with children who are taken into state custody. Voluntary services work with parents on a voluntary basis, as the name implies. And there are other, more specialized units that I will learn more about later….