A Nice Surprise

Have you ever wondered why you chose to work in  Social Work? the long hours, mountains of paperwork and constant criticism from Family’s, the Media, Managers and just about anyone else who can speak.  It’s also not often that you can see the effect of any change that you may have instigated.  And more often then not you see family’s come back to your attention.  The reality being that these family’s need our help and support beyond what is offered.

Despite this Social Work is still about working with people, parents, brothers, sisters, cousins and strangers.   Social Work is about bringing down barriers, and empowering the people we work with to engage with Society.  Developing with them a plan they know so that they will not need a high level of intervention.  Social Work is also about Safeguarding, and protecting the vulnerable and supporting them to remain within their family, or home.

As a Children’s Social Worker it is not about removing Children to place just for adoption just because we can.  Unlike what is printed in the Telegraph claiming that Social Workers are Child Snatchers and adoptions are forced.  I think it is important to remember that there is a Court process that is followed and that the Judges have to balance the basic principles of the Children Act 1989 and the Welfare of the Child.  Plus CAFCASS offer their own independent view.

Often our most challenging cases are our most rewarding.  And this week I bumped into a Foster Carer, who was caring for a baby boy I removed 18 months ago.  The mother was a drug user unable to break the cycle of her substance misuse.   A few months earlier I had removed her two year old daughter, and I can still remember her face as she sobbed realising she could not put her daughters needs before her own need for a hit.

Her family all offered support giving her false hope at the Child Protection conference, but in reality they offered her none.  Having spent hours trying to try arrange support within the family I felt frustrated when they walked away.  Seeing the rejection in the young mothers face and attitude to the safeguarding process.  I then discovered that the mother was pregnant again.  A one night stand with her drug dealer.   The baby boy was born three months early, and with withdrawal symptoms and required oxygen for the first three months after discharge from hospital.

I can still remember coming into work and answering the phone at 9am to hear the Foster Carer tell me what had happened during the evening.  The oxygen alarms had gone off, meaning the baby had stopped breathing and only had minutes to live.  A quick 999 call and basic first aid was the only thing keeping the baby boy alive.  Showing how serious this case was, and the level of risk involved returning the baby boy home.  

Despite this I wanted the Mum to be involved to maintain their relationship and attachment.  I called the Mum and made the arrangements for her to get to the hospital.  What touched me the most was remembering the Foster Carer telling me that, the young Mum had introduced her to the nurses as her own Mum.  Craving the care and emotional support herself that she asked the Foster Carer to support her with this.

I had worked hard for her daughter to return to her care, but the pressure from the dealers had her hooked back onto the drugs completely.  The lack of support from her family and the new baby made the escape she received from the drugs more attractive.  And the drug rehabilitation programme broke down completely and she disappeared from the area leaving her Daughter and Son behind.

So when I bumped into the Foster Carer this week, I was sad to hear that the Mum had refused contact since.  But pleased to see the baby was still alive and reaching its developmental milestones and going to meet his new family.  His older sister living with her Dad and half siblings.  

So although Social Work is hard and the rewards are small, it is important to remember that there is satisfaction at times.  When there is happy endings for the children we work with.

6 responses

  1. wow! fantastic post! I think joe public too often think that as social workers we work independently and can just swoop in and remove kids! No one cares about the processes or the emotional turmoil we ourselves go through! We gain no pleasure from seeing families split up. I can't imagine anything worse than being separated from my kids! Many a night I have cried over cases simply cos life is cruel at times! However despite the cruel realities there are glimmers of hope as highlighted in your blog! well done. x

  2. it is amazing how emotional it can be at times having to argue with yourself about the work we do, and fighting for families to support each other. But there are glimmers in this job that make me feel warm and fuzzy and proud to be a Social Worker! thank you for your lovely comment!

  3. Great post – I can completely relate!

  4. The Telegraph (well, Booker) has a massive agenda and I think it reflects poorly that the Telegraph allow him to get away with it. There will always be people who want to believe that all social workers are evil and get bonuses for each child they remove.. Anyway, enough of that – it's a great post and a good story. For me, this is the value in blogging because it does allow a voice about what actually does happen within these services. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. I'm not a SW, but work in a children & families unit evaluating our various support services and trying to ensure they meet identified needs etc. One thing we often struggle with is the variability across SW's in their own personal values and thresholds around drug/alcohol use. Some are completely anti, and set people up to fail by insisting on complete abstinence, whereas the ones who tend to focus on the impact on parenting capacity, rather than the misuse itself, tend to get better results. What is shocking to me, is that the assessment framework often gets skewed by people's personal prejudices about drugs/alcohol (and where are the supervisors to iron out these inconsistencies?) This causes awful problems when there is a change of SW – a family can be doing well, only to have the goalposts moved by someone with different personal values, and bang, they'll effectively trigger a relapse and then gloat in their "told you so" attitude. This hints at another mindset which is simply about gathering evidence for court processes rather than genuinely trying to support parents. All food for thought. Interesting blog, keep it going 🙂

  6. Interesting comments Alan, Sadly it is true that many people think a protection plan is enough to effect change (a all or nothing approach) rather than using a solution focused approach and encouraging the individual to devise their own safety plan. This is often difficult when other professionals can not handle or manage risk or family's are in so much crisis that they can not support each other! I feel that there is a need to reduce the fear during the initial assessment stages around assessing parenting capacity to understand what the true effects of the substance misuse has on the child. And of course better training to identify and reduce the effects of substance misuse within families for all professionals.

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