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Monthly Archives: September 2014

Hope at all costs

Silent killers:

Cynicism: I have, unfortunately, come across Social Workers who no longer believe people want to be helped. They have been in the business for so long that they become jaded. They are unable to identify the strengths in people. It is a shame because this view can cloud ones ability to truly effect change. What we do as Social Workers is difficult. We listening to some of the worse stories. We are exposed to the worst side of society on a regular basis. I understand where the cynicism comes from but when it becomes vocal it can spread. One of the most inefficient services you can run is one where the staff don’t believe that people want to be helped.
When you give up hope for a child: I have heard the statement “well you know where he/she is going to end up” too many times.LaoTzu is to reported to have said:

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

This is so true when you work with people. We need to be mindful of what we think of our clients. We won’t always like our clients but if they are coming to us for help we need to believe they have capacity to change and to help without judgement. When you stop believing children can change or that a situation can change for a child you are limiting what you are able or willing to do in order to change things for that child.

When you stop treating children like children because they are able to mimic adult behaviour: I don’t care how old a child is, if they are still a child then that’s how I treat them – age appropriately but they are still a child. I don’t believe that just because a child can mimic adult behaviour they should be treated as such. It is usually because they have been exposed to adult situations long before it was appropriate. For me this means even more that I need to help them get in touch with the child that they never got to know. When I see a child who has mannerisms of an adult, it makes me want to help more. It makes me question what happened to them. We have to remember, or set an internal trigger, that children who are exhibiting age inappropriate behaviour – over sexualized, parentified, young children able to use swear or derogatory words correctly – have been exposed to this behaviour and the parents or carers should be questioned extensively about those things to which they are exposing children.
When you stop seeing possibilities: When you don’t see that change is able to happen you become ineffective as a social worker. Social Workers are change agents. We see changes where others see problems. In my view we are that hope that others are unable to see. So, when a Social Worker is unable to see a way to make a change or that change is possible, it may be time for a career break.
When you no longer respect the small wins: Many of the people with which we work are so disenfranchised they don’t get to experience many wins at all. Sometimes, the best thing we can do with them is celebrate those small wins to help them prepare for future successes. When they can see that even small change is possible they can start building their own hope. It’s about empowerment. Respecting those small wins enriches your relationship with your clients, it gives them the sense that you believe in them – even if they don’t believe in themselves, it helps them begin to believe in themselves.

Hold Out:

Know where you are. We are told to meet our clients where they are, but it is important to our work that we know where we are as well. In order to be effective helpers it is important we understand how our work effects us as individuals and seek support so it doesn’t begin to darken the way we see the world and our clients.

Believe in a child’s ability to change. This may mean going outside of the traditional treatments to something that will reach a particular child but, as behaviour is learned, it can be unlearned and changed with support and positive reinforcement. As with adults, when you reward and acknowledge those smalls wins you start to empower them and help them develop hope of their own. Children need boundaries, stability and guidance. Where they don’t have this at home, or may be in care, it is crucial that, where we are involved, we are providing them with them and believing in them.

People under the age of 18 are children/adolescents. There may be those who disagree with me but as someone who has worked with adolescents who craved attention, wanted hugs, were effected by the fact that I can’t give them the attention they want and are still throwing temper tantrums – they are children. I worked with looked after children, children in care to the local authority, and many of them had horrific things happen at crucial stages in their development. Trauma in early stages of life effect a person later in life. Even as I worked with them, I recognised they were missing the childhoods they were never able to live.

Dream: See the possibilities. Believe change is possible. Believe people when they tell you they want help but be clear that you are not going to work harder than they will. It may be a fine line but you are on a way to burnout if you are working harder than your clients. Believe in people’s ability to change and communicate that, but also communicate that it is their lives and you can’t care more than they do.

Respect the small wins. Appreciate the effort it takes people to actually change. Acknowledge how difficult the journey must be for those who have traveled their own paths.

Social Workers do a hard job everyday. It takes it’s toll on us mental, physically and emotionally. We must remember to take care of ourselves so that we can continue to support, empower, encourage and care for others.

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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Social Work Practice

 

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Professionals missed significant opportunities to protect murdered toddler

653This appears to be a running line across serious case reviews but it is unclear what happens once it is uttered. The one thing that is clearly done within a local authority, once a serious case review has been undertaken, is that there is a slew of either “voluntary” resignations or outright dismissals. In terms of practice however, there doesn’t appear to be a change if we are getting the same outcome/recommendation from every case review.

Of course, being me, I have some recommendations.

1- it needs to be drilled into the minds of medical staff and professionals that Safeguarding is EVERYONE’S responsibility.

This comes from a range of things from their unwillingness to report, the signing off of sick notices on the word of a parent, over reporting or escalation of details to warrant a response, unwillingness or lack of confidence in challenging parents of children with significant injuries, etc. I am sympathetic to the fact that they have a limited amount of time in which to do their exams etc. but I would challenge them with this: If this was your child being brought in by the person who you charged with their day to day care while you were working, how would you like it to be handled? Whatever their answer, that’s what you should be doing for everyone’s child. There shouldn’t be one rule for how your child is managed and how everyone else’s child is managed.

2 – professionals across the board need to become more confident in challenging parents and being more aware of the care given to children.

This includes those across housing, education, and any other public service. I have to say that I have seen partners in education really step up and are getting in right in many places but we still have work to do.

3 – this trend of blaming IT needs to STOP!

We already know there is a problem but what is being done about it. Why isn’t there a national medical database with indicators that can inform other medical professionals when an injury is suspicious, i.e. it is not discernable whether or not this is an accidental injury? Why isn’t there a system in place to alert other locla authorities to homeless families entering their area?

4 – Blame should not be the game. Change should be the game.

I don’t understand, from someone on the outside looking in, what is being done to change the way practice is being supported to ensure these things don’t continue to happen. In the case of Keanu Williams it is said that the Social Worker actually presented a “well-argued” case to have Keanu on a child protection plan but this was not taken up by conference. That is reflected in a small section. I am sure that had this Social Worker not idetified this risk it would have been on every page about how he/she failed in her duties. As a matter of fact the first line of the Community Care article says “Social workers and other professionals missed significant opportunities to protect a toddler who was murdered by his mother in Birmingham two years ago.”

Where is the recognition that a Social Worker did raise this concern and it wasn’t taken up? There is one sentence. It is not to say that there shouldn’t have been challenge or a further attempt to push the agenda (this is something that needs to be present throughout all professionals), but at least have equality in how things are reported.

There has to be themes that run through these serious case reviews and somewhere that records what these are. I am going to go on the hunt for them. I know one theme is parents who themselves have been through the care system. But there have to be others, like frequent moves etc.

Once we get the themes we can create a plan. Another theme that has run throughout is for “more joined up working.” This is just another useless phrase unfortunately. It has been talked about in circles but nothing has been done about it. How do we as professionals share the relevant information needed to protect children from abuse? How I ask?

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Social Work Practice, The Social World

 

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Adventures in Interviewing

666Many managers don’t like interviewing, whereas I love it. Enjoying it means I don’t mind volunteering to dip in for this. These are some of my experiences in the interview process of Social Workers. It has been nothing if not absolutely amusing.

My most recent set of interviews saw me being drawn in at the very last minute which I didn’t mind. One of the interviewees didn’t answer the questions or answered pieces of them then would go of on a tangent. :-/

Another interviewee spent the entire interview staring out of the window! You’re coming to me for a job and you can’t make eye contact? Sometimes I don’t believe people are conscious of their own behavior of the context. I don’t mean he candidate would glance out of the window from time to time, I mean she stared out of the window the ENTIRE time; not once did the candidate make any eye contact.

A third candidate spoke as if it were a conversation with friends in a pub. There was no semblance of professionalism in speech. It is important to make an effort and put your best foot forward during an interview. First impressions are everything because in most instances you don’t get a second chance.

I remember interviewing several months back and I was interviewing with another manager who was prompting the candidates for answers! I literally at points had to check myself because I am sure I was staring at her as though she had three heads! You can’t give them the answers! If a candidate doesn’t know the basic aspects of a Social Work position (and these were basic questions) then they don’t know and I am not scoring them for the answers where they were prompted. In essence, they were not getting the job.

I interviewed someone else that laughed or chuckled after every second sentence. It was slightly creepy. I had another candidate that stared intently; did not break eye contact in the slightest. It was unnerving. I have had people show up for interviews looking as though they were going for drinks. I have had people show up for interviews dressed as though the just that moment rolled out of bed. I have had people show up to interviews and look like they were going to cry!

Come on people, we are all adults. When you come to an interview you should be well dressed in a suit, both men and women. You should have adequately prepared for the interview. Most people will score your answers and decide from there whether or not you would be a suitable candidate, so you need to make the best impression possible. If not, then why bothering to show up. If I am interviewing you and your present with inappropriate or inadequate behavior, you will end up the subject of a critical post.

If in doubt, your local library has a host of books on preparing for interviews, interview techniques and how to combat nervousness. It is worth investing in a library card to be able to access these resources as it is better than the alternative!

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in My Practice

 

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Governance for Black America part 2 – National Black Caucus

In a previous post I mentioned a need for representation of the Black community on the local and national political stages.

Establish a national Black Caucus. I know there is a congressional caucus that is looking at the representing the interests of the African American community however, I am proposing an expansion or a separate entity. The remit would be calling our prominent figures that are doing things that are counterproductive to change, prosperity and/or progression within the community. We would manage public relations of national community issues – sending representatives to rally locals and improve media portrayal of the community. We would prepare local political candidates to represent the community and create local caucuses to help them address the issues prevalent in their own communities. It would be a coming together of local and national leaders.

To be more specific I think the remit of the caucus could be:

* making “community call outs” on any prominent figures – local, nationally, or internationally – who are doing or saying things that are counterproductive to change, prosperity and progression.
* manage image of the Black community in the media
* manage community issues before they become national statistics and fodder for stereotyping
* sending consultants to communities to help in times of crisis (public relations, organizing, creating strategic actions plans for change led by local leaders)
* sending consultants to communities where leaders appeal to the caucus for assistance
* training of local community on change management, building community resources, and training local “champions” to manage local political processes
* aiding in ensuring there is equal political representation and policing in communities where Black people dominate the population (to start)
* re establishing town hall meetings as a means of addressing local issues and manage them independently
* building of funds to fund community interventions
– financial drives: possibly local drives to address their own issues
– National drives: appeals to organizations and representation for national crisis fund

As I’ve said, we have all the talent and ability to unite and do better. Having a national voice is part of it but listening to local voices is the bulk of it. Let’s build on what we have to increase what we have.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2014 in Race

 

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Governance for Black America Part 1

In the wake of #ferguson we can all agree that something needs to be done. I think we can all agree that we need to stand in a way we haven’t for many years. We need to take responsibility for what is going on in our communities. We need to do better and there are ideas as to how to do this.

“Black America Needs Its Own President” I wholeheartedly disagree. For years we had something akin to this in the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson but then we are still having the same conversations. We are still reactive and not largely proactive. We are still asking for the same things and making the same demands. We don’t need our own president what we need is to take responsibilities for ourselves and form a coalition to directly address behaviour, policies and practices that are detrimental to the way we are viewed globally and treated locally. They need to be able to directly and assertively lobby for changes that obliterate racial disparities. We need to develop a caucus that goes into our communities where there are issues and organize strategic action that doesn’t include violence or destroying our own communities. We are a people of immense and immeasureable talent and potential. We need representative voices that are not only saying something new but are about REAL action – strategic and targeted that would uplift and empower our communities.

Having one person we look to when things go wrong isn’t the answer. We are a diverse people living in diverse communities all over the country. If we had a caucus where individual leaders from Black communities could come together we can start having the conversations that lead to action plans. We need to address our economic needs and start to build community wealth so we are in a position to help each other instead of relying on others. This is not an impossibility. There is no reason our community shouldn’t be as prosperous as others. It isn’t about amassing wealth as much as it about being able to help our own through crisis. So many have been doing it for so long, meanwhile we are still waiting for our 40 acres. I can’t stand people who continue to perpetuate a myth. We are the only people who rely on our oppressors for progress. Are we serious? This is why we have made progress but have not become leaders and drivers of changes in our communities.

I agree that there needs to be a Black presence to represent our interests but it does not need to come in the form of one person who is on the media stage. It would be more empowering to go into communities and help develop local leaders who can then come to the table to represent their communities. The problems individual communities face are problems our community faces on the whole. There are those who still see our problems as the problem of “Black Americans”, having amassed their own wealth through hard work and dedication and I believe this is what is needed. But we also need to realise that the resources to achieve this are not readily available to everyone and there are communities that are systematically disenfranchised and would benefit from assistance and motivation from their peers in order to see and experience success. We need to help each other out of the trenches and onto the the path of prosperity. There is no reason for us to rely on others to take us out of the shadows; we have everything we need within. It is about having the conversations (new one because quite frankly, there have been apologies for slavery, we need to stop expecting our oppressors to help us progress – i.e. move away from the fairytale of our 40acres and a mule, and we need to wholly understand the impact of racism ourselves) that will lead to strategic plans to impact the world around us so it will change in favor of us. A coalition of communities leaders could do this. Yes they will come with their own agendas and understandably so – they come from varied communities; however, it doesn’t change the fact that there are some issues that are pervasive and need to be addressed. We can balance the two, addressing issues of the Black community as a whole while helping individual communities develop.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2014 in Race

 

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Twenty minute brain fart (writing assignment)

Okay, so somehow I managed to do the totally wrong assignment for the Writing 101 online course. Well, d’uh. Now you have the reason for the title of today’s post. Well here it is, all that’s on my mind in no particular order and probably not making too much sense.

So I’m in training today for a new software program that my organization has invested in. Last week a bunch of people went and complained about how difficult it was and how it didn’t make any sense. See, this is why I don’t listen to other people. I fell into the abyss of boredom at least twice with people asking questions that have been answered twice and not needing to have my hand held. I am over it. I probably could have figured out how to use this program in a day or so just left on my own to play with it. Ok, so now for the training gossip, cuz who doesn’t love a bit of the naughty stuff, eh? There is a senior manager in the group who was informed of the fact that something we are doing in the organization may not be totally legal or being done in a transparent way. His response was basically, “this is the way we’ve always done it.” He then went on to tell the trainer not to bring up that particular issue when he delivers this course to practitioners. I wanted to totally throw a nerfball at his head. It just sounded so outside of what I’d expect someone who is making close to £100K a year to say. Oh, and if that’s not bad enough, he dresses like he’s 14 and has never had a job before. It is so annoying. I know it is trivial and I know he has kids but I’m sorry, you can’t afford one pair of pants (trousers) that actually fit???? Uh, no! That is total crap especially if your partner works as well. Ok, I’m done. I will be good from now one.

Ok I lied. I refuse to be good. This is my brain fart so I am going to make it loud and truly stinky. LOL! I shouldn’t really, but m’eh. I am going to write badly and use horrible English. Dude, I am trying to write and they are screaming. Screaming! Dear gosh! Can I just say how much it interrupts the creative process when you have people who speak so loudly it is almost screaming????? Argh, can I just say – yeah I said it again – how much it annoys me to be around attention seeking adults. Why does everyone need to know you are in the room??? For goodness sakes! I think people think when I am smiling it is because I agree with what is going on or I think what is going on is amusing. WRONG! Usually they have died horrific cartoon-esque deaths in my head and I am amused by my own dark and malicious humor. Ha! Ha! Not very good for a Social Worker, huh? I have a surprisingly dark, politically incorrect and virtually offensive sense of humor. I would even go so far as to say, at times, it is down right perverse – and I love it! I love that no one can predict – including me – what is going on in my head. I love when random thoughts run through my brain, causing me to smile and it makes someone else smile. If it were a crime they would be complicit – an accessory after the fact. I love that turn people into character criminals. It’s amazing. I made them into offenders of social and political correctness. Ha! Now you’re no better than me even though you’re just smiling to be polite. Mwaaahhahhahaha! I am the kind of criminal that effects others but will never be caught because they don’t know that they are committing crimes. My world is so blissfully dark and amusing.

I got off topic somewhere. What was I talking about? Okay who cares. I think I might have heartburn. That’s what I get for having spicy food for lunch. I wasn’t even really hungry. I just ate because it was lunch time. Do you ever do that? Eat because it’s time, not because you actually want food? It can’t just be me. Well it might be; it’s completely irrelevant.

I am ready to go home. I am considering whether or not I should go to the gym tonight or if I should just ditch and do both workouts tomorrow morning. I am totally not paying attention to this trainer, which isn’t good because my manager is in the room. But, I find she doesn’t notice too much that isn’t glued to her eyelids. Is that mean? LOL! It made me smile. Hmm, I only have a minute of this left and I am afraid I have just scared you all into believing I should be put in a mental hospital. I probably should. I mean I am qualified to make that assessment. I would say I have some sort of personality disorder. I am definitely narcissistic. There might be some other things going on there as well. Too many head traumas? Yeah, that’s in there somewhere. Uh, that’s my time folks. Hope you enjoyed the horrors that spew from my brain when I am told not to use a filter. I shouldn’t be allowed in the company of good people. Peace out homies. ~ Daily Prompt

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in writing assignment

 

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Extra, extra read all about it

nureaucracyEvery time I log into my blog reader or check my Facebook feed, I feel like someone is inputting information faster than I can categorise it. As an occupational hazard, my brain is automatically distressed at the site of over-sexualised children or children being abused. My inner social justice advocate wants to start petitions and lobby congress. My inner girlie girl wants to buy shoes and pretend like the rest of the world exists. The daddy’s girl wants to call home and have dad come pick me up so I can escape the malice and ill-intentions of the world. There is so much information you get lost in it all. You are liking pages and commenting on statuses while still locked in the emotion from the earlier post. It is difficult to remember where you started once you get going.

So much access to information. So much opportunity to share information one has to wonder if people actually think, “should I share this?” Every page I like I think, “will this offend”. Every article I read I think “what can I do”? Every picture, every status, every millisecond of every day images, opinions, facts, fiction, slander, malice, beauty, intrigue, retail escape, encouragement to spend money I don’t have bombard my senses and make me wonder how I can become someone else.

Everyday is a new adventure in figuring out who I want to be and how I intend to get there. Sometimes choice is overwhelming and information transports you into the multi-faceted worlds in the minds of too many others. ~ Daily Prompt 

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Social Work

 

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