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The New Social Worker is the quarterly magazine for social work students and recent graduates, focusing on social work careers for those new to the profession. This blog is a companion to the free online magazine at http://www.socialworker.com.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Layers of the onion

SOMETIMES IT'S ALL TOO MUCH. Really. You go on a home visit. The house is filthy--and when you sit down on the couch you feel your feet sticking to places on the carpet. Boxes of perishable food are stacked on the floor in in the middle of the living room, and once-cold packages of apple sauce and other foods are sweating as they adjust to the room's temperature.

A dryer is set up in the dining room, and there are no table or chairs--no sign of habitation, really, throughout the rooms nor on the walls of this place. As you head into the kitchen you notice a virtual colony of insects congregating on the linoleum. Roaches--the German kind--are flitting across the floor in broad daylight, followed by other creepy-crawly things, and flies. When Mom opens the refrigerator door, the stench from inside almost knocks you over, and you steel yourself so as not to appear unkind.

Glancing at the carpet, you see coins and staples, bits and pieces of paper, and other indistinguishable things scattered about. "Is your child crawling yet?" you ask, as he is not at home for you to observe.

"Oh, yes, he's crawling and getting into everything!" Mom replies, proudly beaming from ear to ear.

Picking up a coin, a staple, and some scraps of paper you explain how dangerous these could be for a young child, were he to put them in his mouth, which he is normally apt to do. You talk about the importance of cleaning the floors in general, inquire about the bug issues, and discuss solutions.

You peek into the bedrooms, and it is impossible to see the child's bed, and most of the mother's bed, as clothing is heaped high upon each of them. You ask where the child sleeps and Mom has to take you into the small room and point directly at the area. You see a little bit of a headboard poking out of the laundry piles. Mom explains that she is cleaning out her closet, but it's evident that the room has been like this for sometime.

When the representative from the lab comes to get a urine sample for analysis, he spends a long time searching the bathroom and having Mom remove various bottles of shampoos, soaps, etc. After he finishes, he stands outside the door waiting and listening. Mom reports that she is unable to void. He leaves with an empty cup.

After an in-depth interview, you leave the home, taking with you the smell of stale cigarette smoke and feeling like you need a long scrub in a hot shower.

Where to begin? There are so many places to start. How about right where she is?

~Ms. T. J.


  1. <span>Your description of a clientS in chaos is so well written, that those who cannot imagine may begin to see a glimpse, and those who have seen what you describe can picture it vividly. </span>

  2. I think I've done a supervised visit at that house. (And needed to ask the technical term for killer attack dust bunnies!)