IEP, as simple as 7 3 9.

1 10 2013

We’re back to school. Pencils, books, teachers’ beautiful looks, all that. It’s a delight.

I’m also back to fighting with school staff. I swear, they started it!

I’ve mentioned before that I am a product of the New York City public school system, among other things. I got a good education. Partly because I had access to quality gifted programs, partly because we weren’t in the absolute worst district (we’re number two!) and partly because I had a mother who worked in education, knew the system, and knew her kids’ rights. She also knew not to believe us when we said we didn’t have homework.

Most of the kids I work with aren’t so fortunate. We can talk about kids getting lost in the shuffle, who don’t get to live up to their potential, all that. But then there are the kids who just get completely left behind, because they’re not even in the right classroom.

Not the little weirdos who wander into the wrong room well into December. (That wasn’t just me, right?) The kids with special needs who are expected to sit in a mainstream class that’s in no way suited to their needs. The kids for whom individualized education plans (IEPs) were created.

“Oh, come on SJ. They’re saying everyone has ADHD these days, they don’t all need a special class!”

For the last time, who are you and how do you keep getting access to my blog? If you don’t spend much time in schools, you might think I’m talking about kids with a slight behavioral problem whose parents want the latest, hippest diagnosis.

I hope “she’s caught the vapors” makes a comeback, I really do.

But I’m talking about kids who, no question, need services.

I work with a visually impaired child who was expected to take his state exams without any special equipment and without any additional time.

I work with a girl who was told that she had dyslexia from the time she was in kindergarten, whose mom couldn’t get the school to evaluate her for three years.

I work with parents who were told that they didn’t need to request an evaluation in writing, only to find out months later that yes, they did.

I work with parents who were told not to bother having their child evaluated, they need to transfer them to a special school because the current school can’t meet their needs. (What do you need to effect that transfer? An IEP!)

I work with kids whose 504 plans (IEP lite) have been completely ignored.

And I work with many, many children whose parents had concerns, and wanted their kids evaluated, and were made to wait and wait and wait. It can take a full year.

It’s not supposed to, legally. But what’s to stop the school from losing (I am giving them the benefit of the doubt and not using sarcastic air quotes) the letter the parent wrote requesting the evaluation? Three times, in one case.

Parents can pursue outside evaluations. But for people with no money to pay out of pocket, chronic insurance problems, and little time and money to travel to even more appointments, it’s not usually an easy option.

The most important thing, I’ve learned, is to know what your kid is entitled to. Know the law. Tell them they have sixty days to get this done. If they disagree (“oh no, it’s actually ninety”) let them know you’re happy to use the Google right there until you sort this out. That phone in your pocket is not just a Candy Crush machine, don’t be afraid to break it out! Ask staff members, “is the case still in compliance?” They will get chills, and know you mean business.

And get other people on your side. I have seen the way some school staff ignore parents I work with. I’ve seen how they change when I walk in with that parent. Some parents are intimidated by their kids’ schools. Maybe they didn’t graduate themselves, and feel out of place. As much as we want to empower families to do it themselves, sometimes we need to advocate.

That’s how my weekly calls to one school started. I just wanted to check in on progress! My hope is generally that they’ll get so annoyed with me that they’ll give me what I want just to shut me up.

School SW: “Well, I told the mom we’ve had a lot of requests and are extremely busy with IEPs.”

SJ: “Yes, I understand. You have sixty days to complete it, correct?”

SSW: “Yes, that’s right.”

SJ: “Ok, great! So she submitted it the first day of school…let me just get my calendar out and we can count to exactly when we can expect this to be done…”

SSW: “Sure…I mean we are really swamped with requests…”

SJ: “Oh, I understand, we’re all so busy. November 8th! That sounds doable. I will look forward to hearing from you. I wasn’t able to talk Ms. M into filing a complaint with the city when the school failed to have this done last year, so I’m so glad we’re doing the evaluation now!”

Then I had to reassure this meek, deferential woman that there is a fine line between rude and assertive. Occasionally I cha cha slide across it, but there’s nothing wrong with strongly advocating for your kid.

Now, was it this school social worker’s fault? No. The school has a psychologist one day a week. The psychologist has four other schools to serve. She’s there to provide services, and she’s not the enemy. So we need to demand better for our kids (whenever the government comes back.)

In the meantime, we need to do for our kids. We need to work with the system we have now, while agitating for change. Know your rights. Don’t take no for an answer.

And don’t be afraid to get a little rude if you have to.





Sick burn(out.)

16 09 2013

So often, the only way you get what you need in this field is to kind of be a pain in the ass. No one wants to, but you have to. Lots of people don’t check their voicemail. Or they don’t answer their phone. Or check their email. They might not even go here.

So you have to be “proactive.” That’s the nice way of saying “stalker.” It’s fine, no charges have ever stuck. But it’s the way things get done.

I’ve even been guilty of it. Sometimes phone calls slip through the cracks, as much as I pride myself on actually responding to those who reach out. I love getting surprised “oh, thanks forgetting back to me!”s. And it happens routinely. I’m always astonished when other service providers actually answer their phones and I don’t get to use my pre-rehearsed voicemail message. “Hello? Oh, oh my god. Yes, hi. Why was I calling again…” I would be more coherent if I ran into Ryan Murphy on the subway and he asked me to originate the role of the singing sex educating social worker on Glee.

Not that I’ve considered that. Anyway.

You need to stay on top of people. When I get a new referral, the first thing I do is call the new client. Then I call the referral source. Then I email the referral source, copying her supervisor and my supervisor. Then I call the referral source’s supervisor. And of course I write all this up.

When I started here, I would’ve thought this was obnoxious. But it’s a matter of course. People are busy, and you need to remind them that you’re waiting and that you’re invested.

Sometimes, though, people aren’t prepared to deal with it.

Again, I’m guilty myself. I got annoyed recently when a guidance counselor called me. The first call didn’t bother me. I was in a meeting, and called her back within a half hour. I left a voicemail, as she didn’t answer. She happened to call back when I had stepped away to pick something up at the printer, and I called her back within two minutes. “Oh, finally!”

Hmm…all right. Do not appreciate your tone, lady. Though I get how it is when it’s your emergency.

But then…later that same day…

I had referred a family for a mental health evaluation, and hopefully, follow up services, for the teenage son. The hospital wouldn’t admit him, but he had a pretty serious history of violence and self harm. The mother told me a very believable story of phone tag with the mental health agency’s intake worker, explaining why the appointment hadn’t been scheduled yet. The mother got through to her once, but the intake worker said she was too busy and would call later in the day. Then three days want by. It was so believable as I’d been involved in a similar delightful game.

I wasn’t “it,” but I called back anyway. Proactive, remember?

“Hi, this is SJ from Anonymous Agency, I referred this child last month and just wanted to follow up and see if his intake was scheduled.”

3
2
1

SJ: “Hello?”
Worker: “I’m looking, give me a minute!”

Oh, ok. Normal functioning adults ask others to hold, but you’re doing your own thing. Cool. Follow your heart.

“Ok, I left you three voicemails!”

You left one, and I returned it, twice.

“I called the mom, but her phone was disconnected.”

Weird, she always answers for me. And I remember when clients have working phones.

She then started aggressively telling me the phone number she called for this mother. She told me my phone number. Halfway through her barking out the family’s address, I realized we had gotten off track. I wasn’t calling to question her outreach efforts. I was calling to make sure this family got the services they need.

She didn’t take that statement in the spirit it was intended.

“Well their referral is closed for the next three months. Send them somewhere else, I don’t know.”

I seem like a real sarcastic asshole, I know. And often I am. But not to clients, and not unprovoked.

There is no reason to talk to people like that. What cause do people have to answer the phone ready for a fight?

People love to talk about how busy, or stressed, they are. One of my most important lessons of adulthood has been–who cares? You’re not special. Everyone is busy, everyone is stressed. Very few people you speak to are sitting at their desks, feet up, luxuriating in a lack of paperwork.

I can deal with some rudeness. I write snarky blog entries and bitch to my coworkers. But if she’s talking to me like this, why wouldn’t she be talking to clients the same way?

That’s why my supervisor called her supervisor. It might sound like juvenile tattling, but we absolutely cannot let these things slide. If people are this miserable, they need to move on. Work at Starbucks and passive aggressively fuck up latte orders if you really hate the world that much. Don’t put yourself in a position where a child is denied needed mental health treatment because you’re too grumpy to do your job and engage with people.

Burnout and frustration happen. We have to learn to keep them in check. This wasn’t my first experience with a service provider like this. I hope maybe it can be the last, though.





Brought to you by the letters L and C.

1 08 2013

If you follow me on Twitter, or work with me, or are my Facebook friend, or if I ran into you at the gas station yesterday, you already know–I passed my LCSW exam. Thousands of clinical hours, hundreds of dollars, a pain in the ass application, and a really nerve wracking, long test that I did not allow myself a bathroom break during, and here I am.

There was this other exam happening on Tuesday, I heard. You might have as well, especially if you’re in your late 20s/early 30s, have an awareness of social media, and friends who made admittedly questionable grad school choices. If not, *spoiler alert* it was the bar exam. They only offer that a couple of times a year (or something, I wasn’t really listening) so it’s a bit of an event.

The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exams for the LMSW and LCSW are a little more low key. You can take them whenever you get an appointment, so it doesn’t make the papers. But you do still have to pay a lot of money for the privilege of taking it, turn out your pockets and roll up your sleeves to be searched for notes before you go in, and I think you get tased if you try to use the bathroom without an escort, so we know it’s legit.

People, aside from us weirdos, don’t talk a whole lot about this exam. When I was in a violent panic studying, I was perturbed by the lack of reliable information. You know how when you go into Barnes and Noble, assuming you’ve never heard of Amazon, there are rows of study books? Official looking tomes for the LSAT, MCAT, SAT, GRE, all that. Look for one from the ASWB. Find it? If you did, where? I couldn’t. I heard them saying this would “compromise the integrity of the test. Riiiight. Don’t worry. Charging $75 for a single online practice exam, though, is dripping with integrity.

So here are my tips, free of charge, exactly what they’re worth.

1.) Take is as soon as possible. The LMSW exam, you can take that almost immediately after you graduate. Do it, if at all possible financially. You might think you want some time to work, or relax after all that time in school. But months become years. Remember what you learned in tenth grade trigonometry? Yeah, me neither.

2.) “Don’t pay for a class! Join a study group. Do practice exams exclusively. I mean, take a class, that’s what you should do!”

Everyone will have a suggestion for you. By nature of taking this test, you’ve completed college and graduate school. You’ve taken standardized exams. You have probably learned what works for you. Do the thing that makes you comfortable and don’t care what other people say. I paid that goddamn $75 for the ASWB online practice exam. I had to! It’s how I learn, and passing that helped my hysteria subside. My coworker went to a Meet Up group. Personally, I’d rather supervise a Druidic ritual, but it was what worked for him.

3.) Don’t tell people when you’re taking it. If it goes well, you get to surprise and dazzle them. If it goes poorly, you get to reveal in your own time. You won’t have to hear, “Are you ready? It’s tomorrow, right?! How did it go?! DID YOU PASS?!?!” Tell your supervisor, tell your boyfriend, tell your dog (that was my way) but keep it elite.

4.) If your agency gives you the day to take the exam, schedule it for the morning. You’ll be happy to have the rest of the day to mourn/revel. Since you haven’t told anyone, if it doesn’t go well you can just tell your colleagues you were sick.

5.) Even if you’re an atheist, or an agnostic, or a Jehovah’s Witness, whatever, when your aunt offers to say a novena for you, let her.

6.) Don’t cram to memorize the DSM. You’ve either just gone to school, been working in the field, or both. You know more than you think. But remember a few crucial things, and when in doubt, pick them:
-Seek additional supervision.
-Explore your counter transference.
-Assess for suicidal ideation.
-Report suspected child abuse to the appropriate authorities.
-And for fuck’s sake, talk to your drunk coworker before ratting him out to the supervisor.

7.) Have a playlist ready. Chill on the way there, party on the way back. (Or, chill on the way back too.) Hint- for a celebratory trip home, Queen’s “We are the Champions” on repeat will suffice. You can replace “we” with your name for extra fun. Not that I did that. So lame. But get yourself as relaxed as possible with The Lumineers on the way there, and you’ll be more likely to sing along to Beyonce’s “Diva” on the way back.

8.) Remember that you’ll be fine. It’s a hard, tricky test and plenty of smart, competent people need to take it more than once. But you will pass, even if it takes a time or two.

And when you do, crank that playlist and celebrate the shit out of it.





Congradulations

27 06 2013

If you have teacher friends, surely you know what Wednesday was. (Aside from marriage equality day–yaaaay!) It was the last day of school here in New York. Those kids and teachers were all out celebrating the fact that they won’t have to see each other or bubble in an answer sheet until September. Or until next week, in cases of summer school.

Some kids, of course, won’t be back in September. Because they’re graduating!

If I may wax poetic for a moment, graduation is a big fucking deal. Especially in the Bronx, where we consider fifty percent of high school students graduating within four years to be a glorious improvement. A sad few of my teens have graduated high school, or are on track to do so. More are successful with GEDs, but that’s still a tough route. As for college…all who graduate college while working with me will get a free vacation to Fiji.

Graduation is rare. It matters. A lot of families don’t get to experience it. Their kids don’t walk across the stage and get their diloma as the entire family cheers for them, despite being specifically told to save their applause for the end. So, it seems, people kind of take what they can get.

I recently stopped by to conduct a school visit during kindergarten graduation. Had I known, I would have made it another day, but News 12 doesn’t mention these things. Yet.

At least, I think it was kindergarten graduation. It might have been some sort of baby prom. The five year olds were decked out in three piece suits and floofy dresses. There were balloons, talk of parties, and kids were handed envelopes of cash and prizes by family members.

I get being proud. And of course some kids struggle in school from the beginning, and their accomplishments should be lauded. But completing pre-k and kindergarten? Kids shouldn’t really even be aware of promotion at that point. “Hey I can write my name!” “Check out my rocking color wheel!” “I’ve met my developmental requirements!” Huh?

I actually worked at a pre-k, including graduation, back at Anonymous Youth Center. We made paper hats, the kids sang a couple of songs, and we said something nice about each kid. (Even the one who kept passing around lice.) The parents took a few photos. It was an adorable photo op. We said graduation with sarcastic air quotes. Before anyone brings up culture (I know one of you is itching to!) Anonymous Youth Center and Anonymous Agency serve a very similar demographic. There just wasn’t that expectation.

I wouldn’t care, but it has an impact. One of my more low key mothers, who is extremely involved in her children’s education, was horrified at her newly six year old daughter’s kindergarten graduation. She picked a nice new skirt and t-shirt for the kid. Then she was informed she’d be getting tickets for the event. She heard other parents comparing what restaurants they’d be going to afterwards, and if they were getting a hall (oh yeah) for the celebration. “I was going to take her for ice cream, just the two of us.” Um, yeah. That sounds pretty good.

I would have brought up what we did for my kindergarten graduation, but I certainly don’t remember it. I think my parents went, but who knows? I know they witnessed my debut as The Little Engine That Could. But that was an accomplishment. It was really one of the finest performances in a Canarsie auditorium in 1989, but I digress.

Obama even got into it a while back, admonishing parents not to make such a big deal out of eighth grade graduation. “It’s just eighth grade, people.” (He doesn’t have my gift for words.) You’re supposed to finish eighth grade.

It’s hard. You want to be encouraging. You want to tell kids they’ve done well, and to keep going. They need to know how good academic achievement can feel. But we don’t want it to be an “everybody gets a trophy” scenario. (By the way, stop blaming my generation for that nonsense, it was our parents’ idea.) We don’t give out prizes for the shit you’re supposed to do, to paraphrase Chris Rock. No plaque for not getting arrested, no Certificate for Participation in Breathing. We need to strike a balance.

It starts with remembering that ice cream with your mom is almost always the best way to celebrate.





Intake my breath away

3 06 2013

Engaging clients is a never ending process that begins the moment they first hear your voice and ends…never. (Never ending, remember?) It’s important to remember that. We put a lot of pressure on those first phone calls and first meetings. And they are important. But you have time to make up for missteps and mistakes, and to show who you are as a worker and a person. That’s the good part about that ongoing, torturous engagement process.

You still want to make a good initial impression. It’s important that clients know from the beginning that you’re competent and there to help, and only crazy in the good way.

Really, it all starts with intake.

At Anonymous Agency, we are fortunate enough to have an intake worker. This is the person who takes the phone calls, gets the extremely basic initial information (you know, name, date of birth, if anyone has a restraining order, the essentials) and assigns them to whoever has space on their caseload. For that last reason, she’s very popular. I send her presents periodically, always signed, “Love, SJ (the one with the long hair and the full caseload.”)

I appreciate that doing a good intake is difficult. But some of the referrals I’ve gotten…well, I’m not sure I know what anyone was thinking.

One thing you want to know is why the hell these people are here.

“Reason for referral: family is in need of services. ”

Well that is stellar. You truly paint a picture with your words. Oprah called, she would like to speak to you about sharing your teachings.

“Child threatened to blow up the school. Mother specified that he did not actually do this.”

Yes, well, I hope I would have heard about that.

“School: unknown.”
“Date of birth: unknown.”
“Race: unknown.”

Wild idea, but did you try fucking asking? You can call back if you forget, I swear. It’s a little embarrassing, but people are generally forgiving.

“Child’s age: 16. Grade: 7th. (Child may have been held back.)”

Whoa now, let’s not jump to conclusions.

I shouldn’t complain though, really. I suppose not having some information is better than having a lot of the wrong information.

SJ: “So you see your dad on the weekends?”
Kid: “…”
Mom: “His dad’s in prison. For trying to kill us.”

All right. That has been noted, and we will be moving on.

SJ: “And you guys just moved from North Carolina?”
Mom: “Puerto Rico.”
SJ: “I always confuse those two.”

There’s nothing quite as special, though, as arriving at a five floor walk up, looking for apartment A, only to discover that there is no apartment A. What’s one to do? You start at the bottom and work your way up. Apartment 1. “Mr. Gonzalez? No? I’m sorry.” Apartment 2. “Mr. Gonzalez? No? I apologize?” Apartment 3…and on and on to apartment 8. “Mr. Gonzalez? Oh thank god! Ooooh, 8, A, I get it!”

We don’t always have the best info, and sometimes it makes us look like idiots. (That’s not just me, right?) But what better way to show a new family that you can laugh at yourself, and that you’re not perfect?

Sometimes it’s good to set the bar low.





Blame it on the s-s-s-s-s-social work

24 05 2013

People come to us when they’re having a hard time. Things are not going well. Sometimes, things get worse before they get better. Sometimes, things get worse and it ends there. That’s when the lose-lose blame game comes into play.

Whenever I’m upset about a family having a new case called in, or being stuck in the same old patterns, I get told that it’s not my fault. The people around me become the Robin Williams to my Matt Damon. It wasn’t good Will Hunting’s fault his foster parents were abusive. (Side note: my aunt once referred to that movie as “Searching for Niceness.”) And apparently it’s not my fault when things go wrong for my family, or when they just don’t go quite right. But when there is change, I’m encouraged to pat myself on the back. Take some credit for the work that you do!

You might see why I’m a little conflicted.

I currently work with a family that I anticipated would be very challenging. In other words, I thought they would be a total nightmare and make me cry. The mother and teenage daughter were refusing to speak to or look at one another, saying things like, “she should be less of a stupid bitch” when asked about what they wanted for their family. Six months later, they’re not quite listing the reasons they love one another while working on a family decoupage project, but they can be in the same room and talk directly to one another. They spend time together, and the mom has even been encouraging of her daughter’s interests.

My supervisor compliments me on my work with this family, and the progress they’ve made. I take zero credit. I don’t know what happened, they did it.

I have another family that came in for educational neglect. The teenage boy is not going to school, in order to pursue a long term, loving, relationship with his couch. We’ve tried lots of thing. Parenting counseling, depression assessments, motivating factors and barriers to success have been identified and identified again. Three months later, he’s not going to school. His sisters are, but he’s not.

That, I take 100% blame for. At least in my mind. It’s clearly all my fault. No matter how much I say, “it takes time, these things don’t change over night,” or how often my supervisor reminds me that going to the apartment in the morning and dragging him out by the ear isn’t an option. I know he has agency in his life, and his parents need to take some responsibility. I know it, but I don’t feel it.

Our old director, who has been mercifully replaced, didn’t really go for the “it’s not your fault” mantra. It was my fault, and she could tell me why. On more than one occasion, she told us that resistance was a myth. We can’t say that clients don’t come in, or won’t engage. It’s something we’re doing. We need to take a different approach. Essentially, with the right tactic, any family will engage with any worker.

I can’t help but think that this is at odds with the value of self determination. When someone tells me, absolutely not, I do not want services, I don’t know why I was referred, get out of my apartment before I release the dogs, I think of what old Director Evil said. Of course some people need a different approach. We absolutely need to think about how we’re presenting our work, ourselves, and what we can do. But some people don’t want to work with us. Acting like we can cast a spell to make them welcome us is ridiculous and a little insulting. “Oh, you think you don’t want to work with me. But now I’m validating your feelings, and I’ve brought you a coupon for diapers! There we go. I know best.”

Taking all the blame doesn’t do our participants any good. It’s enabling and patronizing at the same time. Denying any responsibility also doesn’t quite work. We need to critique what we’ve done, and consider if we might have gone wrong.

All or nothing is inaccurate. I know I affect my clients. I know they have self determination and control over their lives and actions. I’m not magic, like some of them think, and I’m not totally ineffective, like some ACS workers think. We need to remind ourselves it’s not our fault when things go wrong, if it’s not our fault. We need to be able to learn from those experiences too.

And we need to figure out a balance that doesn’t lead to quitting within five years. I’m still working on that one.





It’s my social work and I’ll cry if I want to

9 05 2013

A social worker friend was recently talking about a rough day at work. (Most of us have had those, right? Like two, three times a week, max?) It brought us around to the subject of crying at work. We tried to think of a job that wouldn’t make us cry, because I’ve heard that would be the only job worth my tears. I haven’t had too many other jobs. But it seems to me like crying is just a part of social work.

I’ve cried at work. The first time was when one of my kids was shot. Another was when I had to ask for a day off to go to my grandma’s funeral. (That was a little different, though it was made special by the fact that my supervisor had only been with us for about two weeks.) I cried when I hung up after a school social worker accused me of ignoring child abuse and again when I got hung out to dry during an audit.

It might sound like a few times too many, but I’ve been here for over four years. Plus, I have guidelines.

Tina Fey, who I mention in approximately 38% of blog entries, said that women are entitled to a triannual work cry. I try pretty hard to abide by this. It’s a good example of setting a realistic, achievable goal. “Never do it again” just wouldn’t work for me. I cry when I’m emotional. Really angry, really sad, really happy, you name it. You want to see something remarkable, just mention Billy Elliot to me. His dad didn’t get it, but dammit he tried so hard…I need a minute.

At the same time, “do it whenever” won’t work. You can’t cry in front of clients, they have enough to worry about. And we can’t have coworkers slipping in puddles of our tears.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s power lady, wrote that it’s ok to cry at work. Not that it’s necessarily what we should strive for, but that it’s something that happens, it’s authentic and shows your humanity, and it is not the end of the world. Ahh, I love the smell of reason in the morning.

I heard some people really shred what Sandberg had to say. I mean, of course. When a woman makes a point, people generally have to praise it or piss on it, there isn’t much in between. A common dissent that I heard what that crying was immature. Children cry, adults use their words.

This is just inaccurate, though. Children don’t cry. Children bawl. They scream, they kick, they throw themselves on the floor and get snot everywhere. Sometimes barfing is a result, if it’s particularly intense. They need a timeout so they can process and express themselves. This is not professional behavior, which is why you’ll never see a preschooler CEO. That’s not what adults do, generally. They get teary, they take a moment. It’s a physical reaction. Don’t laugh when something is funny, it’s unprofessional! Tough, right? Crying is a release. It’s what allows you to “use your words” when shit gets real.

“But men don’t cry at work, SJ! You don’t know how it is, working in your soft lady environment in the cushy world of Bronx social work. Men face pressure too!”

First of all, who are you and why are you writing on my blog? How dare you. This is a safe space. (Who had “safe space” in social work bingo?) Second of all, yes. Of course! Men are socialized not to cry, not anywhere, certainly not in public and especially not at work. They do, of course, and we feminists think they should be ok with it, but it’s much less acceptable.

The thing is, stress gets to everyone, and emotions run high. Everyone has to let it out somehow. This typically happens in gendered ways. You don’t hear people talking about raising your voice, walking out in a huff, or punching a desk as things to avoid if you want a promotion. I suspect that if crying were viewed as a male coping skill, it would be revered in the workplace. Let it out, Phil. We’ve all been there.

Our work is emotional, by nature. It’s about human relationships and being intimately involved in people’s lives when they’re at their worst. This field is about tragedy and heartbreak. Of course if you collapse into sobs whenever the going gets tough you aren’t going to last. But I wouldn’t want to meet the social worker who perfectly held it together upon hearing of an innocent child being shot, who never got choked up after a removal, who didn’t understand becoming totally overwhelmed by caring.

When I worked at Anonymous Youth Center, the kids would make a huge deal when someone farted. (Bear with me.) When they got really rowdy, I told them to raise their hands if they had never had gas. A few always did. I told them that they ought to leave, as human children fart and this is a program for kids, not robots.

My point is clear, right? Whatever, it’s late.

Human beings cry. We all do it, and, especially in a field like ours, we’ll all do it at work at some point. Even if you’re in the bathroom and no one sees you, it still counts. And it’s fine. We’re not robots, and we shouldn’t feel pressured to be. The idea that being a person is unprofessional is ridiculous.

Just remember, it’s all right to cry. It might make you feel better!