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.

Burn Out

June 16, 2008

Some may say that it might be a little early for me to be writing about burn out, seeing that I am only a month and a half into this job, but recent experiences seem to say otherwise. Today, I transported Blue’s 4 year old to her visit and while waiting for her to show (she was over 10 minutes late again) the foster dads of her other 2 children were chatting about the other caseworker on the case. And essentially one of them, one who has been a foster parent for 27 years, said that there are two basic types of caseworkers: good and burnt out. Yikes.

The other catalyst for my thinking about burn out was a member of my unit had her last day on Friday. This is not a good sign as a major draw for me to this particular office was its consistency. And if this is consistency, uh oh. The worker that left our unit, was, in my opinion, very good at her job. The benefit of my shadowing people lately, has been that I have been able to not only learn from them (and their successes and mistakes), but I have also been able to size them up. This worker seemed to have a good rapport with clients – she was compassionate, but also honest and didn’t get pushed around by them. She was organized and seemed to care about her kids and coworkers. She wasn’t super forthright with me about why she left (probably because she didn’t want to scare me off), but just said that the unit she was transferring to (adoption homestudies – no angry people) was one that she originally wanted to work for. She first did investigations (1.5 years) and then our ongoing unit (6 months) and so lasted a year in the trench work. Will that be my lifespan as well?

Blue is also burning me out. I have started to say no to her and she is not happy about it. I have started to hear some barbs as a result of it. So on Thursday, she asked me to move the location of her visits. On Friday, after speaking to all of the parties, I agreed to move it to a library that has a park adjacent to it. I inform Blue of this and she is still angry and can’t understand why we can’t have it at the mall. Her argument: essentially the library and park are boring and she wants to buy things for her kids. She again accuses me of not listening to her or caring about her concerns. I remind her that she asked me to change the location and I am doing that, to a location she actually had said previously was fine. Anyway, logic does not exist for her and I just have to tell her that I am not changing my mind in the short term, but she is welcome to provide me with a list of suggestions for the future. There were other things she was of course upset with as well on Friday evening and while I was attempting to be patient and just “experience” another conversation with her, I had to push my way off of the phone and then did after 83 minutes.

And I was thinking, if I had a full caseload, which I will soon, there is no way that I could sit there and give any person that kind of time. One of my coworkers then informed me, this is why we don’t return some phone calls. I understand.