Social Work is hard. I don’t know if I can do it forever
For everyone that has a parent, spouse, significant other, child or someone that cares about them, I’m sure you’ve been asked this question many times in your life. I ask my three year old son how his day was, every day, and typically it’s full of things like playing outside, taking a nap, new toys and adventures. Spouses may talk about frustration with a co-worker, being tired due to working hard, and a boss being too hard on them. We typically talk about frustrations. And other times, we talk about success or exciting things that happen.
For me, my answer typically is “it was a good day today” or “today wasn’t good”. That’s about all. My occupation as a child welfare worker makes it hard to discuss my day for many reasons. Confidentiality being number one, but mostly because people that don’t experience the same things I do may find it hard to listen to, or give me the “I don’t know how you do what you do, I could never do that” speech.
Today I’ve decided to touch on why I do what I do
Over the past eight years the experiences that I have had have been utterly amazing to down right terrifying. Things are often good and often really bad. But, it really depends on how you look at it.
I’ve been exposed to methamphetamine fumes. I’ve seen meth labs dismantled in front of me from a few feet away. It makes me physically ill, I’ve had headaches and nausea and it’s hard to carry on throughout my day. Please don’t feel sorry for me. My exposure leads to moving children who live in that environment OUT of that environment; helping them breath fresh air and stop being sick. It’s not a bad thing that I was exposed, it’s a good thing they’re no longer exposed.
I have taken children from their parents; screaming, crying, not understanding why. Other times they go with me willingly,because they’re willing to trust a stranger may keep them more safe that their parents do. I buy them McDonald’s because they haven’t eaten. I drive to Walmart and buy formula, diapers and bottles. I feed the babies in my office, change full diapers, get peed on, and scavenge for clean clothes to put them in. Children come in with lice. I treat them by putting on gloves, picking through their hair, and spraying treatment on their heads. Don’t feel sorry for me. It was worth it, because they’re fed, clothed, treated and sent to a safe home.
I’ve sat on couches that have had cockroaches crawling next to me. I’ve been bitten by fleas. Don’t feel bad, I was able to get someone into the house to treat the bugs and the kids sleep soundly at night. I’ve been in homes that gag me with a smell, that I cannot walk through because of clutter. Homes that are freezing because of no heat, and homes that have no utilities. I help families remedy this. And the kids are warm, clean and have their needs met.
I’ve sat at the hospital for hours with a child who was hurt by their parent. I’ve rocked and fed babies that were born addicted to drugs, who are attached to so many cords you’re afraid to move too much. Their parents left, so I packed them up in a small carrier and drove them hours away to a safe home once they’re healthy. I fall in love with each and every one. And leave with a little tear knowing the new family that is caring for them, will make sure they don’t hurt anymore.
I act as a mom, a friend, a confident, a bad guy, a good guy, a helper. Kids tell me things and wait for my face to react. When it doesn’t, they tell me more. Often times a four year old will tell me things that most 15 year old’s don’t know and don’t see. They watch my face for a reaction because they’re used to that. When I don’t react, they trust. They tell me more. It breaks my heart. It scares me for my own son. But I don’t react. And they tell me more. Teenagers call me and talk to me as if I was their parent. And in some situations I’m the closest thing they have to one. And in reality, I’m a complete stranger. But I listen.
I’ve had nights where I cry, wondering if I did the right thing or could have done more
I have nights where I celebrate because a child found a permanent safe forever home. I have nights where I wish I could shout to the world that I got through to a family and they changed. And the kids are safe and happy.
My co-workers all have very similar stories. We share them during the day. We laugh, we cry, we yell, we scream and we bond over these stories. Child welfare workers all over the country do the same things that I do, and have seen, and maybe much more. We often say “We should write a book, but probably no one would believe it”. Well, here is just a glimpse into many of my days. While it’s not in detail, it’s enough to explain why I do what I do. Social Work is hard. I don’t know if I can, or will, do it forever.
But for now, I do it.
With everything that I have in me.
It drains me and fills me up at the same time. Someone has to do it and today, I’m glad I do. Shout out to all my colleagues who know what this means. And thank you to all the readers who don’t know, and may have a little more understanding of why.
Every Sunday I publish a guest blog from a Secret Social Worker who wishes to share their story with the world. If you’d like to write an anonymous guest blog about life as a Social Worker, email me via: firstname.lastname@example.org
*This blog was first shared by Social Work Tutor in April 2016 and is also posted here