Day One

May 2, 2008

So I finished my first day. I arrived on time, despite leaving later than I wanted. When I arrived and asked for my supervisor from behind the glass, I was informed that she was not there. Uh oh. Not a good sign. Fortunately, a woman from my unit was there, Sarah, who was actually asked to show me around in the morning. Better. Sarah was very nice and showed me around the office and gave me lots (but not too much) insider information about the office and job. I then worked on some personnel paperwork and was welcomed by my supervisor who was off to meetings. She asked me to sit on one later in the day and to meet with the personnel lady later. Not too bad. And before I knew it, Sarah was back telling me she had been instructed to take me out to an early lunch, so she and Troy took me to a favorite joint.

We got back, after they gave me loads more insight, and I joined a CPT (Child Protection Team, I think) meeting. This is a meeting that the SW and supervisor have with representatives from the community to get recommendations on how to proceed with a case. I don’t think that Massachusetts did anything like this. Oregon had something similar, but that seemed to be the community keeping tabs on the Department as opposed to the Dept. asking the community for input. Anyways, I sat in on two of these meetings. The first had to do with a 7 month old with a mysterious spiral fracture. Experience tells me that this often indicates physical abuse, especially when the explanation from the parents changes and is unclear, as in this case. I was a little surprised, however, that the “guests” of the CPT were not so concerned about this. So much so that I thought about speaking up, but that really did not seem to be how the meeting functioned. I will have to figure that out as I go on.

I also think it is interesting how dv people (domestic violence) are so obvious about what their specialty is. Just as there are lesbians that are 100 footers, I think that many dv advocates are 10 worders – Within 10 words you know that they are dv advocates. Their focus is just so apparent. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing – although it makes me concerned that because they are so concentrated on domestic violence that they have blinders on to other issues.

The second case involved drugs, neglect, and the mom showed up. It reminded me how that really changes a case when you meet the family. It really humanizes it. There is also so much more data from a personal encounter, which I think is important. The other interesting thing I noticed from discussing family was how my mindset has changed as I have switched roles. Previously, I was a clinician and my main concern was the mental health of the client, meeting them where they were at, and really, just listening. Now, my role is more complex. There is an element of clinician that is still there, wanting to understand and hear the client. But there is also a bit of detective in there as well as analyst/evaluator. I need to hear what the client is saying, but I can’t stop there. I need to delve deeper and figure out what is really going on and analyze the rest of the data because I have to make really important decisions about the safety of the child. It was amazing for me to realize how this shift in my thinking had happened, in really just one day. I am now on the other side of the fence. And it is interesting.

The rest of the day was more orientation, personnel paperwork, and a little bit of reading case files. I have to learn a whole new set of terms and acronyms, which is always challenging. It is so close, but yet, different enough that if I mixed them up, it would take others some time to figure out what I was talking about. But, I do think that I am getting faster at it. Hopefully, it won’t take me too long.

So final verdict: a good day. I still think I would have preferred to have had the state-wide training, but there was still enough structure and support that it was helpful. I wasn’t put into a cubicle with a large, out-of-date binder of policies and told to read it all day (which happened at my last job). People were very eager to talk with me and have me shadow (also not the case last time). So I will be accompanying Sarah tomorrow to court, which should be fascinating…