Welcome to The New Social Worker's Blog

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.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Busting through Writer's Block

I HAVE BEEN A BIT BLOG-BLOCKED this past week. A kind note from a reader helped to light a fire under my keyboard, so to speak.

I have been very concerned about confidentiality these days. I don't want to take the chance of breaking the NASW Code of Ethics. Although I change the gender, number of people, and even the circumstances of the cases in my posts, I want to be extra mindful of the incredible responsibility I have to my agency and clients.

That said, I became completely blocked as a result of this!

I guess getting my fingertips back on the keys is the only way to begin again, so here goes...

This past week in the field involved lots of meetings and training. I am also working on completing an online training program which will prepare me for the final child welfare test which is required to get a job in the agency after graduation.

This last semester is challenging. It's not the work. I can handle that. It's being so close to the end that I can taste it. It's realizing that I have been incredibly focused for two and a half years and I'm tired. It's recognizing the toll it has taken on my life, my marriage, my friendships, etc. And knowing that, in the end, it will be worth it. It will be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

This blog has been so helpful for me. Posting to it helps me sort things out. It helps take the drama and energy away from experiences that confound me. And if I have helped just one person, it will have been worth every word, sentence, and paragraph about being in graduate school earning a MSW.

~Ms. T. J.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Quote to Begin the Day

THE TRICK IS learning to maintain an unwavering focus upon your desired end result, your completed dream, the "finish line," without insisting upon, or even contemplating, its means of attainment, no matter how logical, obvious, or tempting it may seem (http://www.tut.com/theclub/).

Happy Monday.
~Ms. T. J.

Friday, January 22, 2010

We Take the Call

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN READING ANOTHER BLOGGER'S POST and sitting in class this morning, I had a flash of insight. It might sound elementary to seasoned social workers, but for this newbie, it was a bit of a revelation.

You know, sometimes child welfare workers get a bad rap. People say we break up families and take kids away from their parents and/or guardians.

Guess what? We don't.

We take the call.

We take action when someone else (neighbor, family member, school personnel, medical personnel, etc.) makes an allegation.

It's our job to take the call.

To check it out. Investigate. Look at the children, talk to them, and make sure they are not in imminent danger. Then we talk to the parents/guardians. We find out what happened. We talk to other people, too: friends of the family, doctors, school and medical personnel, clergy members, and neighbors.

We try to keep families together. We really do.

And, if a child has been beaten, or starved, or left alone, or sexually abused, or placed in a dangerous situation with others who may harm them, we rush in.

We would never know about it, though, if we hadn't taken the call. Unless, of course, it happened in front of us and we saw it with our own eyes. Only then would we make the call.

So, if you hear people talk about child welfare workers in a negative way, please gently remind them about how it works:
1. First someone allegedly does some type of harm to a child.
2. Then someone picks up the phone and dials our number.
3. And then, we take the call.

~Ms. T. J.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Field Practicum: Week Two

IT'S WEEK TWO IN THE FIELD, and I am headed in a new direction this semester. Whereas I spent most of the prior 15 weeks in CPS investigation with some intake on the side, this school term finds me in CPS Ongoing.

Today I went on my first home visit with the case manager with whom I will be working. Last semester I worked with a female case manager, and this go-around I will be with a male. This will be a good experience for me, as I have worked primarily with women for the past couple of decades.

In CPS Ongoing, we work with parent(s) who have allegations of abuse and/or neglect reported against them. The reports are either unsubstantiated, or substantiated but not severe enough to warrant immediate removal of their child(ren). If the parent(s) works a case plan in an acceptable manner, and if they are compliant with all other requirements of the agency, they are given a chance to retain custody of their child(ren).

One of the supervisors explained to me that this can be a very dangerous situation for the children, and because we visit the homes for short periods of time, we must be extra vigilant to notice signs that the kids are in danger of abuse and/or neglect.

This shall be a great learning experience for me. I will do my best to be a caring, watchful servant in this latest social work endeavor.

~Ms. T. J.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Wisdom to Know the Difference

I REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME I READ "THE SERENITY PRAYER." I was baffled by the part that read, "...and the wisdom to know the difference. "

Now, some twenty-odd years later, I can still get befuddled by that prayer.

Let's take this week for example:
I could not change the fact that my car started to leak transmission oil. I could not change the fact that my field instructor was no longer employed at my agency when I returned after winter break.

I needed serenity to accept these things that I could not change.

I also needed courage to change the things I could, which were minimal. By gathering information about the car repair, and talking with a supervisor at my internship, I was able to change the level of my anxiety from high to manageable.

Then, I once again needed serenity after I found out that the auto repair bill would amount to hundreds of dollars.

I needed even more serenity when I learned that I would be moved in my field practice to an area where I did not expect to be placed.

The wisdom to know the difference in these situations? For me, I had to realize that I could not control any part of it. The car had to be fixed. In order to repair the oil leak, the mechanic had to dismantle almost everything under the hood. And, because of this, the labor cost would reflect the amount of work he or she needed to do.

I can not determine where I am placed at my field agency. The good news is that I am excited about the area which is ongoing/family preservation. I will learn a lot about working with families, as well as gain valuable knowledge about field work and documentation.

The wisdom to know the difference (this week) means being a team player, opening my heart, and trusting that there are experts (mechanics and agency staff) who have reasons for doing what they do. The mechanic is fixing my car so I can drive it safely, and the agency is providing the necessary training so that I can become a responsible, knowledgeable social worker.

Simply put: it's all good!

~Ms. T. J.

How You Can Help Haiti

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Monday, January 11, 2010

I Don't "Wanna"

OKAY, I'LL ADMIT IT: I am whining.

I've hit some weird wall. I'm sure it will pass. I just don't "wanna" (imagine the whine, here) study and write papers and read and research. I don't "wanna" get up and go to my internship.

This is new. And it's my last semester!

I talked with a friend of mine who has her doctorate about this recent phenomenon at the outset of my final semester and she shared an amazing story with me. She said that when she was in her final class, she sat down to take the mid-term exam. She got up in the middle of the test and walked out.

She said she called her professor who immediately said, "I am sure you did fine on your exam."

She replied, "No, I didn't. I walked out without completing it."

He said, "That's okay; we can set up another time."

She declared, "No we can't."

She dropped the class and took the rest of the semester off. It was her very last class! She pointed to her head with an imaginary pointer-finger-and-thumb pistol and said that she was in an emotional place where she just couldn't move forward.

Clearly it was the right thing for her to do. She went back the next semester and finished her doctoral degree. She is a well-respected, sought-after psychologist in the city where I live. I count her among the sanest people I know, and I know quite a few.

That conversation really put things in perspective for me. I am not suicidal. In the scheme of life, I am not even very overwhelmed. I just don't "wanna" (imagine the whine, again).

~Ms. T. J.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

It's Starting to Feel Real

IT'S NOT THAT IT DIDN'T FEEL REAL BEFORE, it just feels different this semester. After my first weekend of classes, I am experiencing excitement and fear all rolled into one big emotion. My heart is beating fast in my chest and, at times, it's as if I can actually feel my blood as it courses through my veins.

Part of me thinks it's because our profs are regularly giving us tips and suggestions and even sharing with us us how they will feel when they witness our graduation. One teacher said she will cry when she watches (she also admitted that she cries at all graduations -- even when kindergarten children advance to the first grade).

Our instructors are talking about the importance of networking as they give us information about events, conferences, and gatherings of professional social workers. They are strongly suggesting that we immediately sit for the LMSW right after graduation.

Some moments, it's almost more than I can handle. At other times, I am absolutely ready. Bring it on, I say!

I guess it's part of the educational process for our professors to prepare us for what comes next. Their speeches are mixtures of "atta girl and boy" dialogs tempered with a call for deep reflection.

Exciting. Scary. Real. That's what it's all about today.

~Ms. T. J.

Friday, January 8, 2010

First Day of our Last Semester

TODAY OUR COHORT OF 23 STUDENTS returned to the classroom. We exchanged warm greetings and hugs as we settled in, once again, to the business of getting our MSWs. But this semester is different, for this is the final leg of our graduate school journey.

In Integrative Seminar class, a course that promises to bring all that we've learned into focus as well as help us identify our strengths, our Prof addressed us with a bit of a "reality check" lecture. He assured us that this would be our toughest class and that we would find out if we were made of the stuff that is required to become social workers. He also said that it's a class where the faculty will determine if we have the qualities necessary to make it in this field. Our Prof said the MSW is the toughest degree offered at the university, and it ranks right up there as one of the toughest of all graduate-level degrees.

It was a sobering speech, and it helped me to reassess my goals (once more!) and to reflect upon the hard work that we have all produced during these past semesters.

This has not been a cakewalk. And it shouldn't be. We will be working with others as social workers in schools, hospitals, child welfare agencies, senior centers, military bases, hospice centers, convalescent homes, assisted living facilities and drug and alcohol centers, to name a few. We must be professionals who have earned the right to caregive, help, and intervene with individuals, groups, and families.

What an order! As I looked around at the men and women I have spent the past days, weeks and years with, I felt a sense of solidarity, if you will, with the group (it's also a word that our Prof used). We've laughed, we've cried, we've disagreed with one another, and we have banded together seemingly as one. We have commiserated and cajoled one another.

And it ain't over yet! While I look forward to the day when we will walk on the stage to collect our diplomas, I know I must plant my feet in this moment, because the moment is all I've got.

~Ms. T. J.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Book Club Selection: PUSH by Sapphire

The third book club selection for THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER's Book Club is the novel PUSH, by Sapphire. This is the book upon which the movie PRECIOUS is based.

I started reading this book, and it is a powerful story. I hope you will read it with me! The book club will be discussing this book in an online chat at http://www.socialworkchat.org on January 31, 2010, at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. Please join us and explore this important book with other social workers. We also would love to hear from social workers who have seen the movie!

Please join our book club group on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=98840583520&ref=ts for more details about the club!

Previous book club selections were The Soloist and Still Alice.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

I AM TUCKED AWAY IN THE MOUNTAINS of North Carolina with my husband and two other couples as we ring in 2010. We have been walking together, eating together, shopping together, and playing together for a couple of days. As we hugged and kissed and clicked champagne flutes at midnight (mine was filled with apple juice), one of my friends wished me the best in my new career of social work.

It is hard to believe I will graduate in four short months. (I will probably think, say, and write this a lot in the days to come). I need to stay focused on what is in front of me including my four classes and my internship concentration. I plan to stay the course and get everything I can out of the next 15 weeks. As soon as I finish the semester, my goal is to take the LMSW exam.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year. May all your goals and dreams be realized. I hope you will share your experiences with me in the upcoming days.

~Ms. T. J.