Anger at parents

July 17, 2008

I haven’t spoken about Blue in awhile.  As a recap, Blue has 3 kids – 1, 4, and 9 – and they are placed in different places, the 4 year-old with his alleged father and the other two in different foster homes.  The kids came into care for general, medical, and educational neglect and the more time we have spent with her, the more we have learned about various cons and aliases she has gathered.  She is fascinating and has some significant mental health issues (I can’t wait to read a psych eval, but I am pretty sure she has a personality disorder, most likely Borderline, among other issues).

So what has been going on lately?  We had a home visit last week and she subsequently missed a visit with the 4 year old.  So this week, she missed her visit with the 4 year old again and he was upset again.  I got an email just afterwards from Blue saying that she was confused by the time and tried calling but neither I or the other worker was in the office (she didn’t leave a message, but did speak up with the back up worker of the day).  And she asked if she could see him again this week because she missed and loved him and requested that he also be brought to the group visit with his siblings (which is at least an hour drive each way).

So the other worker did think it was important that the 4 year old go to the visit and so she drove him down yesterday.  And she DID NOT SHOW!  This is an extremely frustrating situation for a number of reasons.  One, it is really hurtful for the 4 year old.  Two, the worker’s time is extremely valuable and it was essentially wasted by this mother no showing (although the boys did get to spend time together).  Finally, it is really difficult to believe much of anything that she says when she claims to want to see them and love them and within an hour and then within 24 hours just not show up.

And being in touch with my feelings about this I realized that I am really angry at Blue for all of this.  I don’t like being lied to.  I don’t like being taken advantage of.  I don’t like to see kids hurt.  So I have to be very careful with my feelings.  Yesterday the way I handled it was not responding.  I received the email and knew that it would not be good to respond to the email.  I just forwarded it on to the other worker and waited until I could talk to her.  But it is tough – I don’t get angry very often, almost never – but I need to make sure that my feelings stay in check because I am the professional.


Addendum: Angering Parents

June 19, 2008

Looking back on my previous post, I realized that I excluded a big piece of that interaction.  Not only did I piss off Blue, but I predicted that most of what would happen would happen.  And that knowledge was very anxiety-provoking for me.  I am not a confrontational person (to a fault) and was raised by two of the most avoidant, passive (also to a fault) people I have ever met.  So knowing that I was going to go in there and confront this parent (who can be intimidating) and know that she was not going to take it well, definitely got my blood pressure up.

I grew up playing sports and like to approach lots of things in life like I have in sports.  One technique, which was always difficult for me to comprehend as a kid, but I think is really helpful is visualization.  So I took my time, gathered my thoughts and went through what I thought her response would be to different ways I approached the topic.  This was helpful because it helped me figure out how I could convey what I needed to within the limitations she would provide.

The other thing I did was get some ideas from my coworkers.  Dealing with angry parents is nothing new for them so they really had some great language ideas for me to use.  Ones that again conveyed the message but also did so in a way that she could grasp.  One thing that I have been really lucky with is how open the other members of my unit are.  Not only have they been welcoming to me so far, but they are also willing to explain things or offer advice, as in this one.  This is, of course, when they are around!  🙂

So the other social worker on this case and I are going to have a home visit with Blue.  One of the original concerns the state had with her was the conditions of her house (police report stated that the smell of urine was overwhelming upon entry).  I am curious if she will have it ready to put on a good show for us or if it will still be questionable.

The other thing is we are planning on confronting her on a number of levels.  One is we are have a strict list of guidelines for visits, including a late/no-show policy.  She claims that she is never late and always on time, which we have numerous documented reports, as well as personal experience that says otherwise.  Then there are her dirty UAs, the psychological evaluation she needs to do, her financial statements, and all of the other court ordered services that she needs to complete before we begin to consider to return the kids home.  Oh, and discuss with her the fact that there is the possibility that some, maybe all, of her kids will live with their fathers, who at the moment appear to be appropriate, willing resources (although, currently need to finalize their legal paternities).  What a lovely Friday morning it will be.  I just hope we are not there all day because that increases my chance of snapping.  And it is way too early in my career to be doing that!

Conflict, but not at court

June 12, 2008

So apparently sometimes I worry too much about things. Or, just about the wrong things. I went to court today and it was no big deal. Actually it was kind of boring, except for maybe the attorneys, who at times seem to start stuff to just start stuff, like middle schoolers do. The Mom was actually excited to see me. We chatted a bit and then it was back to the office.

One of my big tasks recently has been organizing visits for a new case to our unit. Three kids in three different placements with a mother that has almost 2 dozen aliases, numerous cons (for thousands and thousands of dollars), and severely medically (and educational and ‘regular’) neglect. This Mom (I need aliases for these parents don’t I? So we’ll call her Blue) is quite a charmer and we already know that this is going to be very contentious in court. So I have been trying to juggle the schedules of the kids, the foster parents, Blue, and our contracted supervisors. And then once I get those down, then it is trying to find a place for the visit to happen. This has not been an easy task and I know people are frustrated. Unfortunately they are directing it at me, but I feel like I am doing the best that I can and trying to make it as simple as possible. Of course, that is not so easy.

So yesterday I had called Blue in the early afternoon offering her a makeup visit for today (10-12) because I thought I had figured out a schedule for the one of her kids that lives far from the others (today I found out that it won’t work out at all because of vacations. Grrr). I asked her to call me back either way to let me know so we could organize it. She didn’t call me yesterday – I checked my messages at 8 pm. She didn’t call me this morning – I checked my messages at 9:15 while at court and therefore canceled with my scheduled supervisor. I do get a message at 1:45 saying that she had called me the day before (she had not) and was confused about the times and requested that I call her back. So I do and offer to have a visit tomorrow (we need to make up lots of visits because of schedules) which she agrees to.

But then it is this big thing about she is not happy with the current location of the visit. Previously the visits were at a large mall. First, I don’t think that a mall is the site where a quality visit can occur. There are many distractions when the focus should be on the kids and interacting with their parent. Plus, she has three kids (1, 4, and 9) so it is hard to keep track of them in a loud, crowded mall. Finally, there is the issue of supervision. There have been previous reports of Blue saying inappropriate things to her kids, especially the 9 year old. A mall is just too difficult for a supervisor to monitor everything. Well, Blue wants the visits to go back to the mall – does she not like the intense supervision she gets at the new contained location? I tell her that while I hear her concerns – there are many that she tells me repeatedly – I am not going to change the location of the visits at this time. I do tell her that I will look into alternative locations. Blue again tells me how great the mall is – even though she agreed to change the location when we did it in the first place – but cannot take no for an answer. She really goes on about this for about 20 minutes. She talks about how bad the department is and how slow we are to getting her answers and how we don’t put her kids first and how we ignore her and on and on. I repeatedly tell her that I am hearing her concerns, that I will look into and consider a different location, but at this time I am not going to make that decision. Finally, I say that I am not going to argue with her over this. Well, she backs down about this and reassures me that she is not going after me (right) and that she is not trying to argue with me (sure). And after another 5 minutes are finally able to wrap up the conversation. 35 minutes to confirm a time and location for a visit. Whew.

Afterwards, some of my colleagues (who heard the conversation and knew immediately who I was talking to) congratulated me for surviving my first argument with a client. It was really different from anything that I had done before. I really had to stand my ground and be firm with her. I really felt like she was trying to push me around so that she could get what she wanted. And I think that I did ok, but this is something that I am going to have to get a lot better at. People are going to try to push me around and I have to be firm and make sure that I am doing what is best for the kids and not just what the parents want me to do.