Social Work: Helping Others Turn the Page

I never thought I would write about my job.  I always keep my career separate from my writing (don’t ask me why).  Maybe because I have always worked for state agencies, and it’s pretty taboo to talk about your “state job” on the Internet, so I’ve always chosen to keep it private; I don’t really know.  Today, I decided to take a chance and take some time to write about it because I feel like working in this field has given me a new appreciation for this work, and I feel it needs to be celebrated in some regard, because most times this line of work is not as celebrated as it should be.

When I went to college, I never thought I would be a social worker.  When I began college, I wanted to become a lawyer; I ended with wanting to work with juveniles.  I finally got my chance to work with them in 2012.  I did it for about two years before I realized I wanted something more.  I realized that reaching the child without reaching the family is only solving half the problem, or not solving the problem at all.  Helping a child make better choices, without showing him the tools to change his overall lifestyle was doing nothing.  At that moment, I realized that I wanted to help people on a larger scale, I wanted to help families on a larger scale, and that is when I applied for a job to become a social services case manager.

I’ve now been working in the field of social work since 2014.  I began as a case manager and was able to become a supervisor in a year. I’ve been overseeing case managers since 2015, and although I’m out of doing the primary field work, the background administrative work and knowledge that I pass down to others is just as important as the physical ground work.  I am still heavily involved in cases, helping families become more self-sufficient and empowered, mediating conversations and resolving conflicts with families.

I feel like I have evolved as a person in the time I have been in this field.  I have learned things that will keep me safe, things that I will carry with me for a long time; but most importantly, I learned to value perspective of life.  I learned how to not allow my personal upbringing or bias interfere with someone else’s lifestyle (which is common in this type of work).  I’ve also learned that most times, people hit rock bottom, and everyone in this world is one step away from having a Child Protective Services worker at their front door, so being humble is the most important part of the job.

I have some good and bad things about the job; from sexually and physically abused children, to parents who overcome addiction and achieve sobriety.  I’ve seen parents become reunified with their children; and unfortunately, watched parents lose the rights to their children.  The hardest part is working with someone, and trying to get them to see that change needs to happen, and they never find the motivation to do so.

I’ve also had pretty interesting experiences.  I’ve had people call me every name except the name my mother gave me, I have watched teenagers disrespect and talk back to their parents, I have experienced cases involving child deaths and serious injuries, I have seen homes that you wouldn’t let your worst enemy live in, and even been in neighborhoods that even the police don’t go into alone.  If you asked me why I ever decided to do this work, I would tell you “someone has to keep the babies safe.”  But I’ll admit that the situations never get easier and easier to stomach, but you have to go into people’s lives unbiased and motivated to help them find a better tomorrow.   You have to be the person equipped with the skills and tools to show them that they can turn the page, and life gets easier after that.

Sometimes I have days that are very normal, and others are like a ticking time bomb; you know something is about to happen, but you don’t know when.  On any given day, someone can sing praises to your name on how much you helped them to turn that page on their life and start a new lifestyle.  Some days, you’re regarded as the worst person on this planet, scum of the earth even; and you have to take it all in stride because you know and that person knows that after it’s all said and done, you’re just trying to help them see a new tomorrow.

Social work is the type of job that doesn’t take a day off.  It’s constantly on your mind. The ultimate task in ensuring children are safe every day of the year is possibly one of the most difficult jobs to have, and it can be physically, mentally and emotionally wearing on a person.  You have to have a strong presence and a giving spirit to deal with a family whois at  their lowest point, and help them become empowered and efficient enough to spark a behavioral change to better their families.

Everyday, thousands of calls come into our agency; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Even the smallest inkling of potential abuse is reported, and we as social workers have a mandated duty and are bound by law to investigate it.  It’s not that we want to be invasive, and we don’t want to ruffle feathers or cause any further trauma to someone’s life, but it’s our job.  It is our job to protect children and families, and it is one I take pride in every day of the week.

So here’s to all the social workers of the world; young and old, new and veteran.  No matter what anyone says, putting the safety and well-being of children on our backs is a feat that not all are willing to take on.  Cheers to us, and keeping children and families safe!

-Whit C.