You gotta give ’em hope

22 09 2011

I hate people.

I know a lot of my sarcastic contemporaries who hide behind internet anonymity (see you all at the next meeting, guys) revel in their misanthropy, but I try not to. I really do.

On some days, it’s hard.

I had to walk a few blocks out of my way in order to get to the office the other morning. This was because there was a shootout on the street in the middle of the night, and the block was still roped off by the police.

Apparently, this is what it takes to have a meaningful police presence in the neighborhood.

Often, because of where these types of things take place, they get ignored. If it was Midtown Manhattan, it would be a big deal, but it’s the Bronx. It’s the ghetto. A bunch of gang members want to kill each other? Let them.

Except that in this city, in the past month, we’ve had three children under five (that I’ve heard about) accidentally shot on the street. What the hell kind of human thinks that their ridiculous beef with some other dude in the neighborhood is worth the accidental death of a child?

Earlier, I noticed a candlelight memorial outside a client’s building. Apparently it was for a three year old girl. The parents claimed her death was accidental, but upon further examination, she had been horribly abused for some time. The mother of the family I was visiting showed me pictures of her daughter and this poor girl together at a recent birthday party, while she asked what kind of person could do that to a child? She was just glad that her daughter was young enough to not really understand.

We didn’t discuss the fact that, though we were quite a bit older, we certainly didn’t understand either.

Then I got a call about one of my families. A big, chaotic family, with lots of kids who fight like cats and dogs, and who make me laugh on every visit. Apparently they’ve been removed with no warning, and, as far as I can tell, no real reason. The children’s lawyer called me, mystified, saying she thought everything was improving. That’s what I had thought as well. They were waiting for placement in a domestic violence shelter, because the dad is now out of jail and has been coming by to beat the shit out of mom as often as he can.

By all means, traumatize everyone further. That’ll show them.

There’s a lot of disgust to go around in this case. The city, for refusing to move the family to a new location before the father was released from prison, and again for having an underfunded shelter system, and again for punishing a family for having been victimized. Of course, the “father,” who feels justified in beating the mother of his children in front of those children, pulling a knife, trying to set mother and children on fire.  (Fun fact–you only get a year in jail for that!) An ACS worker, who seems to be primarily focused on how inconvenient this all is for her.

These are the people we’re sharing a planet with.

People are always asking how I manage to do my job, how it doesn’t get me down, how I work with people who do terrible things.

Barely, it does, and I don’t know.

All I know is that if I don’t believe in the people I work with, I can’t do my job. And while my job might not be changing the world, it’s something. If I write everyone off as “bad parents” and “juvenile delinquents” things don’t get better. They stay the same if we’re lucky, they get worse if we’re realistic.

Days like this I can’t do it. Bureacracy, disappointment, inconsiderate people, I can deal with. I have to. On a daily basis. I can get snarky, use my impressive vocabulary and quick wit to get a one-liner in that will make me feel better, and move on. I’ll be annoyed, but I move on.

Today I have to half lie to myself, and say that, despite the tragedy and the people we can’t help, things do get better. As much as I want to quit right now, I can’t imagine doing or being anything else.

Because there are those moments. Moments that make you feel good, like a teen telling you she likes that you listen to her, or a grandma bringing you cough drops because your voice sounded scratchy on the phone. And moments that actually make a difference, like a kid walking away from a fight for the first time, or a parent recognizing that a child’s behavior is developmentally appropriate, and not worthy of punishment.

It really beats the alternative.



13 responses

22 09 2011

Sounds like somebody needs a weekend, maybe a long one (any sick time available) with a long walk in the warm air to watch the birds wheel and turn in the sky (or whatever it is you do to regroup). Personally, I have found looking at this picture (found on another social worker’s blog) to be very helpful for quick stress relief at the office.

Hang in there. One of your “moments” will come soon.


28 09 2011

Thanks, that’s a great picture. Fortunately my niece was born a few days ago, so I have a few hundred pictures of her to get me through the day now!

22 09 2011
Vetnita in MN

I am soo sorry. On days like that, I find that losing myself in some hooky movie or book is the only way to survive until my soul reboots. Please remember that those kids remember that someone tried and actually cared. Is it enough? No, but it is more than they might have had. Take care of yourself and remember my only Ayn Rand quote.

“In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.”

28 09 2011

Feeling about Ayn Rand aside, I like that quote a lot. Thanks for sharing it. I do always hope that some kids will get the idea that people care about them, even if we can’t necessarily change things.

22 09 2011
Dr. Mom

All you social workers are terrific and heroic–even if you don’t feel that way all the time!

28 09 2011

Perhaps we were just raised well…

22 09 2011

Here in Canada we recently lost Jack Layton, the leader of our socialist party, only a few months after they won the most seats ever in our House of Commons (our parliamentary chamber) and he became the Leader of the Opposition. He wrote an open letter to Canadians on his deathbed that ended with the line: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” He was so well loved they had a state funeral, normally reserved for former Prime Ministers and Governers General. It helps me to note that he spent so much time leading a minor party, knew he was dying after finally becoming a huge player, and still wrote one of the most inspiring letters I’ve ever read. He was also my hero.

28 09 2011

Thanks so much for sharing that, it’s very inspiring. I remember hearing about him when he died, I hadn’t been familiar with his work before but he was clearly so well-loved and admired. Thanks again.

23 09 2011

Yes, pick yourself up, dust off and keep on going. That is some good social work. It’s the weekend now though, and I hope you are enjoying the company of loved ones and relaxation. It is well earned.

28 09 2011

Yes, we’re moving forward. I’ve had some good times with family, music, and stupid TV, so I think I’m ready. Thanks 🙂

24 09 2011

Anyone can slay a dragon, he told me, but try waking up every morning & loving the world all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.

As a veteran of 31 years on the front lines, I promise these days – and thoughts – will come and go.
I’ve always depended on artist Brian Andreas (from to give me a lift…I have this one hanging on my wall!

28 09 2011

Thank you for sharing that link, I love these! And thanks for all the work you’ve done. I’ll keep it in mind next time I’m feeling down.

21 12 2011

I just found your blog, so I’m way behind on your entries…but I’m commenting anyway. I love what you said above. I’ve been working for CPS for 24 years and for the most part, like my job and find so many positives. But I also have my days where “I hate people”. It’s okay to have those days. We see more in months, than most will in a lifetime. We’re allowed.

At times, I’ve felt the disgust and the disappointment, the anger and frustration and every emotion possible…I’m sure we all have. I’ve also felt so many positive emotions…While I believe a positive outlook is a bonus, I also think there is something good about stating just what you did…Somedays we can just be pissed off at people. Not living in that emotion permanently, but admitting that on some days, we do feel overwhelmed and sick at how humans behave, and it is okay to say so. Yep, we’ll get past it and move on and have happier days…but I feel like we should be able to honor our feelings on the days we don’t. Thanks for this great blog!

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