I’ve wanted to write about Social work for a while in some context, but it’s a controversial subject and very emotive for some people so bare with me…
The headline above makes you think, doesn’t it? It’s hard hitting and sadly the reality of what most people think of this profession. Stories from disappointed service users and the media only compound this message to others. IT IS NOT TRUE and here is why in my own words…
I’m a mother, i love my child with every ounce of my being, and i would never take on a role where i could be in the position to just snatch other people’s children from them – I’m a human being, a parent, and I can imagine how gut wrenching that could be for someone.
Even the most horrific cases I read, about child abusers and parents who neglect their children. Knowing what they’ve done, I still feel a sense of empathy with them – the abusers. How does one get to that point in life? How does one sink so low into the depths of despair that they could harm a child they once loved or should love? Who was looking out for them? Where was THIER help?
A lot of people may disagree, think I’m supporting child abusers for caring about how they fit into the story. But I don’t look at it like that, I don’t see just an abuser, i see a person. I see the situation in all its glory. I don’t paper over the facts and just cling to the headlines we all see in the news. I try to understand why it has come to this point in someone’s life. I sympathise with all parties and wonder how if just one small thing was different maybe the outcome would be too. Of course, I don’t advocate on behalf of abusers, somethings i read about make my blood run cold and i shed a tear for the victims. Of course, they should be punished for their behaviour. But next time you read a storey of this nature, actually read it, don’t believe everything the newspaper prints, because mostly they are there to make money by printing hard hitting headlines that only scratch the surface, they don’t show the real or whole picture.
The picture of a mother who has post – natal depression, and has been crying out for someone to notice that she can’t breathe, but then it all gets too much and she does something that she can never reverse.
The picture of the dad who was abused all his life by his own father and has no other reference on how to behave as a suitable father should do with his child.
Just take a while to think and understand how it could have ever got to that point. And that’s why I’m doing this because i already think and feel this way, I always have. I’m that person that sees a bully reigning terror on people, but still feels my heart ache for them and lays awake wondering why they need to do that, what is happening in their life to make them think that is the only way forward? I don’t agree with bullying, i hate it and bullies also deserve punishment, but i look beyond the act and ask why it is happening and there is always a reason.
When you tell people you are a student and they ask what you are studying, you could be forgiven for saying fashion or media, it’s just easier because once you say social work it opens a whole new can of worms. People immediately jump to the defensive, they become judgmental and are suddenly all an expert on how social work should be done! Let me tell you, social work isn’t just common sense, it takes a 3 year bloody hard degree for a start. It’s about what kind of person you are, it takes skill, time, patience, knowledge and much much more to be a good social worker. You constantly fight a failing system, you put your own needs and feelings to the back of the list, you battle with your ethics every day, against rules and regulations and what you know is right in your heart and you lay yourself bare for slander and criticism left right and centre if you put a foot wrong. Can you imagine having someone’s life in the palm of your hand? Worrying to death that if you choose the wrong intervention that someone’s life could be destroyed in a flash. That’s true social work, it isn’t pretty; but when it’s right it’s a feeling like no other, knowing you have helped to facilitate someone to turn their life around, you’ve given them hope again. You can’t save everyone but you can give it a damn good try and that’s why when people ask me what I’m studying I’m proud to say social work because i know the truth.
Some things i hear, truly make me laugh – “Social workers take kids from the good parents and leave others with abusers”
“Social workers just came and took my kids, im the perfect parent, i don’t know why they did it”.
Do people actually think that social workers roam the streets, spot a house in the distance and just think ” i know i’m going to that house and i’m going to take their children” NO. They don’t. Bottom line is social workers only get involved when there is a problem, usually by referral and mostly those come from people closest to you that can see a clearer picture of what’s happening. On the flip side contrary to popular belief social workers also don’t have x-ray vision, they can’t see into homes and know if someone is being abused. They don’t go around knocking doors asking to see if anyone has bruises. Social workers work on the eyes and ears of others and the hope that people come forward to inform them they need to be involved. The people that believe the former are I’m afraid in denial. I’m not for one second suggesting that there aren’t bad social workers, there are, I’ve met and worked with loads – some poorly trained, some who have lost the passion and some who are just so burnt out that they may miss something because this is their 30th caseload this week. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, no one is untouchable and even in other jobs, people make mistakes all the time. The difference is that social workers deal with people, and when mistakes are made they can be fatal.
Think about that next time you judge a social worker, think about the responsibility they bare. In cases like baby p, i often hear people say it was the social workers fault he’s dead. Yes, partial blame can be put on to the social workers for not doing their job as well as they should have, but there are also many other agencies that social workers work alongside, schools, hospitals, police, who also should take a share of the responsibility for not intervening sooner. Ultimately the people to blame are the individuals who actually killed baby p.
Social work isn’t just about child protection though, it has so many facets – mental health, older persons etc because anyone can need social intervention at any point of their life. There are areas for improvement in all these sectors, just like with any vocation. It takes a good team and dedication for a social work agency to come together and do what they set out to do at the beginning of their journey. To help support people. That’s the bottom line, thats what all social workers set out to do but they are not infallible, they are humans. So next time you want to judge or demonise a social worker, take a step back and look at the real picture. Take a look at the real statistics and the real stories from service users who they help everyday and get no recognition for.
Thanks for listening.