I recently came to a conclusion–I shouldn’t really talk about my job with the non social work public.
Yes, I realize that I am writing this on the internet. Decidedly public. But bear with me.
People enjoy the funny stories about wacky kids and sassy teenagers. They also like to hear the horror stories. About how rough the job is, how awful some people can be.
I don’t know, it’s like misery porn. Think of how many Oscars “Precious” was nominated for.
Quite often, I need to talk about it. I can’t take it all with me. There are times that I see things that make me angry, but more often they make me want to cry.
The other day, I stopped by to do a home visit with a family that I was having trouble seeing all month. When I rang the bell, I heard the dog yipping and the girls shrieking. I was so happy to have finally caught them at home.
Then things got a little strange.
I realized that it was the four year old asking me who was at the door. She knows me well enough at this point, and tried to open the door, yelling, “I can’t do the lock!”
I asked who was home with her. “My sister!”
Ah, the two year old. And to think, I had been worried.
She managed to get the door open. I confirmed that they were, in fact, home alone. The three of us stood together in the doorway, played dolls and sang ABCs (OK, that part was fun) and waited for the police.
Mom, the cops, and the babysitter with whom mom had left the kids all arrived at the same time.
So yes, mom made a mistake. She, clearly, did not choose the best person to leave her kids with. The babysitter, clearly, was an idiot.
But is this woman a bad mother? Does she deserve to lose her kids?
No. There’s no ambiguity, even. She’s a good mom. She was horrified that the girls were home alone, and her first priority was making sure that they were all right. She wasn’t upset that they police had been called. In fact, she was relieved that I had found her daughters.
I don’t even want to know what went down between her and that baby sitter after I left.
This was the end of my Friday. I dragged myself home, wanting to collapse into
hot chocolate Glee marathon bed.
I also kind of wanted to talk about it. But I realized something pretty quickly.
Other people weren’t sad about it. They were pissed.
In a superficial, righteous kind of way.
“I wouldn’t leave my kids home alone until they were 12! What kind of an idiot does that?”
“What was so important that she was running out to do, huh? I can imagine…”
“I hope those kids get taken away.”
Yes, foster care will truly do them a world of good.
It made me think of all of the other comments I’ve gotten. I can categorize them at this point.
The person who doesn’t do anything, thanks to their heart of gold.
“Oh, I could never do what you do. It would just devastate me, I would care too much.”
The hard ass who makes the tough decisions you soft social workers can’t.
“I wouldn’t have let them leave until those kids were removed!”
The asshole willing to write off entire segments of society.
“Just admit, most of those people you work with shouldn’t even have kids.”
These people all have one thing in common: they’re not social workers. They don’t work with families. They don’t understand the nuances and complexities of family systems, of those relationships, of parenting. Even if they have families, and are parents. They don’t understand that, in most cases, removal wouldn’t fix things. That foster care is not a solution. It saves lives, it’s necessary, absolutely, but it also creates a whole new set of problems to be addressed.
I’ve never been a fan of, “You’re not (fill in the blank), you wouldn’t understand.” But I guess there are times that it applies. The fact of the matter is, the only people who knew what I was talking about were my fellow social workers.
The funny stories, the tragedies, and the inspiring victories have a universal appeal. But like I am always telling my clients–there are times that you just need a social worker.
*Dedicated with much love and gratitude to my tweeting social workers who got me through a mild breakdown 🙂