Someone Stole My Chair!

May 21, 2008

Some thoughts:

  1. Someone stole my chair over the weekend. On Monday morning, I sat down in my chair and it felt different. I looked down and indeed it was different. I could not believe it. Oh, and the thief(ves) also left a dolly in my cubicle. Strange.
  2. Bad news. So I need to go to the state-wide training before I can officially have my own cases (and feel like a real social worker, instead of an intern). I thought that was what I was going to be doing on Day 1. Nope. So then I thought I was going to be doing it in the beginning of June. Well, nope. So I am signed up to start in July. That is so long away. I am glad that I have to do this training and I am glad it is mandatory, but I wish it was more accessible. At this point, I would like to do it as an Independent Study.
  3. The drug and alcohol treatment facility for mothers that are pregnant or have small children that I supervise a visit at is very depressing. It looks like it is a petri dish of neglect. Very cute kids, but there are some very clueless (distracted/incompetent/overwhelmed/struggling) mothers there. I am curious what some of the numbers of how the program does are. But I do not like going there.

Finally, I went to a meeting today – a brown-bag open dialogue – between Dept. social workers and members of the judicial bench to foster communication. There is a new commissioner (same as a judge, but appointed instead of elected) and many social workers have had some issues with her. So they had this meeting and for the 1st 45 minutes they addressed written questions that they had received from the head of the region (which supposedly received them from office heads who gathered them from social workers). Anyway, at that point some social workers told them that they didn’t have issues with the procedures, but mostly had issues with the way they were being treated and the tone used by the new commissioner. Essentially, they felt degraded, disrespected, condescended to, and insulted in court. Not good.

So aside from all of the immediate and practical implications this has, I got to thinking about some of the larger systemic issues that might be at play here. One is the major hierarchy of power here. Judges rule. In the courtroom, they make the decisions and in a lot of ways, do what they want. Social workers are way down low on the totem pole in that setting (although do most of the work). In a sense the courtroom is a microcosim of society. Another is some of the miscommunication issues and where they stemmed from. Who and where were social workers’ issues filtered from the court? Interesting.

But the big thing that I have been thinking about is sexism. Now I don’t want to let this new commissioner off the hook here – she should be treating everyone with respect. But does the fact that she is a woman play into this at all? She is the only female that I have seen on the bench (granted I have seen only a handful). But perhaps she is feeling the need to establish her authority early and is fearful of not being taken seriously (or as seriously) because she is a woman. Perhaps people are viewing her comments as harsher than they would from a man because she breaking the expectation that women are nurturing. I don’t know if these play into it at all, but I do think they probably are at least a little bit and have the potential of being huge factors. That being said, treat people with respect, and don’t steal their chairs!

Advertisements

Emotional neglect

May 14, 2008

Today I was supervising a visit between a mother, her 1 year old son and her 6 year old daughter at her drug treatment facility. I first pick up the daughter from school who is quiet as we walk to the car, then is a chatterbox for 20 minutes, before falling asleep to pick up her (half) brother at his foster home. And it is so clear that this foster mother just adores this little boy and is sad that he goes on these visits (because she would love Mom to be out of the picture so that she can adopt him).

Anyway, Mom is happy and prepared for the visit, greeting us at the front desk and bringing toys and a diaper bag. We go and sit in a room, which yes, is awkward, because I am just there watching, what should be (and probably is) a very intimate experience for this family. But, I am needed (as evident later in the visit when Mom was not paying attention to the baby and he attempted to eat rocks, prompting me to intervene). For the most part, Mom is very appropriate in many ways. She sits on the floor, she has appropriate toys, she is attentive to his dirty diapers. My problem is I believe she is emotionally neglectful (and therefore, maybe abusive?) to her daughter. Repeatedly, the daughter attempts to engage Mom. (Today it was asking Mom twice to help her build a sand castle – first time she was ignored, second time Mom pointed out an unrelated item). Yet, Mom is solely focused on her son. And yes, a 1 year old needs more attention than a 6 year old, but she is so different at the visits. She hardly speaks at all, save attempts at engaging her mother by asking questions or making comments about the brother. Then when we get back into the car to go back home, she is a chatterbox again, making comments about everything and asking numerous questions.

I wonder what the long-term effects of this will be. I can imagine that there is a large amount of resentment building within her. It makes sense that she is never excited when we pick him up from his foster home. But it also makes me wonder what is going to happen when Mom has her next baby (she is 7 months pregnant). Will both children be neglected in favor of the baby. Out with the old, in with the new?

And what does this all mean from a child protection point of view? While this is obviously harmful to the children, should it prevent Mom from parenting them? Where is the line? And who decides? Of course, this case is not limited to just Mom emotionally neglecting her daughter – her long-term substance abuse is of prime concern. But where does this emotional neglect fall? And how can it be addressed, if at all?