More thoughts on Academy

July 17, 2008

I have almost finished my second week of Academy, so I think can add more thoughts:

  • I think I have mentioned before that I was surprised by how few people had MSWs (especially compared to my office). And that is coming through in the classes. I feel that they are rather elementary and I am not learning much that is new, when it comes to theory and general social work.
  • I am a little surprised by the Dept.’s emphasis on strengths-based social work. While I have realize this is the general direction that general social work has taken, it is very interesting that it is being applied to a state child welfare agency. In a field that is focused on the problems that parents have, it is interesting to try to partner with them. I think it is a good move, but can be very difficult considering the time restraints and natural adversarial relationship that exists. For those interested, the theory we are being taught is based on the book, Solution Based Casework.
  • To be blunt, I am disappointed by some of the other people in Academy with me. Many are not as sharp as I would like them to be and a few I have no idea how they were hired after an interview. I guess I realize more now that there are some poor social workers out there and that is unfortunate – for me and for clients.

Social Work and Race

July 9, 2008

Today in training, they were talking to us about some common values/traits in different kinds of families.  Well, they did not do the greatest job ever (although not awful either) and so we launched into a conversation about race, how we approach different families, and theories about why Black and Native American children are overly represented in the child welfare system.

So this got me thinking: does any other profession discuss race as much as social workers?  A core class in all MSW programs is a diversity/ cultural competency/ racism class.  Does any other profession have this?  Not that I can think of.  And I am glad that we do.  It is an important class and important topic for social workers to be thinking and talking about all the time.  Of course, it is not easy because we as a society have difficulty talking about it.  So maybe we social workers can be a sort of group of leaders on this front.

Academy vs. the Office

July 8, 2008

Today I went to Academy (training) for the morning, then left at lunch to go to the office and do some real work. And it really was quite the contrast. The morning was laid-back, I was very passive, mostly relaxed, and almost bored, wanting the clock to go faster. There were a couple of things that I did learn that I might use sometime, but I didn’t really feel guilty about leaving at lunch.

So I hopped in my car and drove across town to the office where I met up with a colleague and we went to Blue’s house for a homevisit. We got there on time, which was important for my colleague because Blue is rarely on time. We met the CASA there and I was glad that she came along (and is on the case). Blue and her “fiance” (looks too young to be a fiance to a 33 year old) did not answer the door at first, although we could hear them and the CASA had already said hello to them. They finally let us in, looking frantic, saying they just broke a glass and were cleaning it up.

Now, many past roommates can attest to the fact that I am not a particularly clean person. I am not disgusting, but I am nowhere close to being a neat freak and can stand a bit of dirt and disorder here and there. In other words, it takes a bit for me to say that something is dirty. And this house was dirty. It didn’t look like they had ever vacuumed (and I am someone who thinks you only have to do it every month or so), the furniture and rugs were all stained and filthy, and it was a bit in chaos. And this was a planned visit (about a week’s notice). There is no way that it was clean enough for a baby or toddler to be in.

Blue talked for the hour, throwing out story after story. A couple of them, either the CASA or the caseworker challenged her on, but not too much. I think everyone can see that this is going to trial, and really, that is the best place for everything to come out. (And when I say trial, I mean a trial to determine if the kids should become “dependents” of the state, giving the state more longer term authority. This, however, does not terminate her parental rights – that comes a bit farther down the road if deemed necessary.)

To top it all off, Blue stated that she would blow off a job interview to go to her visit with her son (which she also knew about the previous week). However, she didn’t show and her very cute 4 year old was very disappointed that he did not get to see her.

After that I got a bit slammed by work. A new referral (allegation of maltreatment) came in on one of my new kids who is living with grandparents. So I was talking with the CPS workers about it and what they saw (not much). There was also trying to track down a provider that I haven’t heard from at all and finally getting the voicemail of her supervisor. There was writing a letter to a criminal court on behalf of a client and her lawyer wanting me to put more and more in there while mine was telling me to keep it short and simple. There was trying to rearrange visits that have not been going well with a different client. And finally doing a homevisit on my own of the little girl with the new referral (which had already been planned).

And it was so different at the office than Academy. I was moving a hundred miles an hour. I was doing about 5 things at once and being pulled in lots of different directions. It is like being at a busy urban ER on a Friday night. Except, the work I don’t finish, still has to be done at some point. Unlike the ER, there is no one coming in on the next shift to make sure everything is done. It is just me, trying to get it all done. But there are aspects of that that I like – as masochistic as that is.

And I think I will leave the office politics, staff changes for another day. Sigh.

Social Worker Academy

July 7, 2008

Today was my first day of Social Worker Academy – the statewide training that is required of all new social workers hired by the state. The good news: it wasn’t as bad as I had been warned it would be. The bad news: it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. Of course, I knew that it wasn’t going to be. I would love it to be an in-depth, challenging exercise combining the day-to-day of what our jobs will entail with the philosophical debates of what our roles should be and why. Some day I will create this fantasy social work laboratory somewhere. Hmmm.

Anyway, back to the present day. Some initial thoughts:

  • it was interesting meeting lots of people from all over the state.
  • I was surprised at how many people were older – they are grandparents older – who are starting this job.
  • I was not surprised that there was only one man in our group (but that the 2 heads of our training were male).
  • I am not used to having a 1.25 hours for lunch. And I probably never will after this training.
  • Almost my entire unit has their MSW, so I was a little surprised at how few people at this training did – I think it was 9 of 34 (although there were some other random master’s degrees).
  • People from the rural parts of the state are quite different, in a number of ways.
  • I wish there was an expedited version of this training.

So the way this works is that I have 2 weeks of this, then have 2 weeks back at my office, and then go back for 2 more weeks. We aren’t supposed to have cases yet, but I do, so I am doing a little bit of juggling. Which actually isn’t too bad (yet). I got a bit of work done today, put out a few fires, and kept things under control a bit (so far). And it was nice to have something to multitask during the training because my mind needed the exercise. It might have put me to sleep just having the presentation to think about. But, listening to the speaker and thinking about the casework was actually a good balance that I think kept me on target.

Tomorrow I am actually skipping the afternoon session to have a home visit with Blue, which should be very interesting. And then I am having another home visit with one of my new cases, because, I might as well do them on the same afternoon.