Wednesday, October 8, 2008

oh to be a social worker

I am SO sick of the staff at work hating me because I'm a social worker and trying to convince me that I'm horrible because of it. YES, I am a young, white, female social worker! I accept that! But, that's the way things are, and it's not going to change just because you spend a morning arguing about it with me!

I can very much understand the clients dislike of social workers and I rarely share my educational background with them, why bother. I do in some cases, cases in which I feel it would be of benefit to them or to the profession itself (and won't hurt the relationship with the client), but just in general, no. So many of my clients have been SO hurt by social workers in the past. While it's great for them to know that not all social workers are evil, I also do not want to create barriers where there don't have to be any. In some cases, I have to use my education in order to create an atmosphere in which people are willing to talk to me (I look, well, young, like, high school young). People feel more comfortable knowing I'm not just some kid. In some cases, when people know me quite well, it's good to share that to help build their opinion of social workers.

The staff though, the staff seem to have a VERY hard time with the social worker thing. I get it. I really do, but still, it drives me crazy. Many of them have been hurt by social workers in the past as well, and watched the clients get hurt by social workers over and over again. But nothing is that simple and in many cases we personify systemic failure and social worker seems to get the blame. Bah, I say, BAH!

I worked over time yesterday (or was it today?) morning, staying for 4 extra hours because three people called in sick. I was run off my feet. The person I was working with, whose butt I was saving(she was coordinating) spent time trying to convince me about why social workers are horrible. How she knows LOTS of social workers and they're all cold hearted bitches who don't know what they're doing and don't understand where the clients are coming from. How education means absolutely nothing. It got to the point she basically told me that since I hadn't lived on the streets or had an addiction I had no business going into social services. Excuse me?

I may not have lived on the streets, but that's where empathy comes in. I may not have had an addiction to an illicit substance, but that doesn't mean i can't empathize with them! I happen to be quite addicted to caffeine and to my anti-anxiety medication (oh gosh, the withdrawls). I may not have got myself thrown in the drunk tank, but I've done some pretty stupid things in my time. Just because I'm a white female doesn't mean I haven't experienced challenges in my life I've had to overcome, and I would like people to stop assuming that.

I think the opinion of the staff matters to me so much because they are my peers. I want my peers to respect my work, and to relate on a professional level with me. Instead, there is a huge deal of recentment, as many of them are uneducation and have been hurt by social workers and here comes young me with my education, and idealism, and energy (I'm hyper, okay), and management and the clients seem to really like me. I have ideas and theories about things which are new and different...that's not bad, but it's change. And they forget that I already knew many of the clients before I started. I'm not meeting them for the first time.

And that rather awkwardly concludes this rant.


antiSWer said...

"...since I hadn't lived on the streets or had an addiction I had no business going into social services. Excuse me?"

Yeah, expect to get this a lot. Especially since you're young looking. It's a complete BS attitude and you're right about the empathy. If you're willing to listen and have empathy with someone, you're farther along than most people.

The problem with people in recovery being helpers is that they TEND to feel that the way THEY recovered is the only way. It narrows the vision. Those who haven't been there have a better chance of looking at all the options and tailoring treatment to individual needs.

Don't take no crap!

cb said...

It sounds really rough. I used to get this when I started work because I always looked much younger and people assumed I was about 4/5 years younger than I was (I don't think they do anymore!).
So a lot of people thinking I had no idea what I was doing because I couldn't possibly have any idea what it could be like.
Although it's easy to say 'ignore it' it's not really possible consistently.
But talking about it here is definitely a good outlet!

Caroline said...

I get this from my own family - the "bloody do gooders" label - don't know about over there but the media doesn't help here, rarely are there any positive images of social workers on the television. Take heart flower, you won't always look like you just left High School - one day you will look raddled and old like me and then they will say you are out of touch instead :o)