Hope at all costs

26 Sep

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.


Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Social Work Practice


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3 responses to “Hope at all costs

  1. Adrianna

    September 27, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    I’ve often said my favorite people are social workers they are the healthiest in thought I’ve learned to behave in a manner that is supportive. Ty


  2. brandymuzz

    September 30, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    As somone in the American social system I agree it is hard to make changes. I however am lucky I am reletively low maintenance on my social worker. I don’t have the problems of drugs, alcohol, kids, housing, looking for work, etc. I have found this article enlightening .


    • TGreen

      September 30, 2014 at 3:04 pm

      Hopefully your social worker is working for you. I’m glad you liked it. All the best.



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