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.

Friday, October 12, 2012

GUEST POST: How To Bring Conversations to a Screeching Halt

by Kristin Johnson

I learned many years ago when I made a woman cry (at a party no less) that sometimes even the mere mention of what I do for a living can shut down just about any conversation.  I was at a friend’s baby shower, and we were all recent college grads.  The hostess asked me if I was working, and I told her I was a child protection social worker.  She dissolved into tears as she described a story she had just read in the paper about a baby being abused by a parent. It was a terrible story, but she immediately associated me with that story and spent the rest of the shower tearfully telling me that she didn’t know how I could possibly do my job.
I’m never sure how to take that comment, and I get it all the time.  Sometimes it’s spoken with a bit of awe:   “I don’t know how you do your job!”   Other times, it comes across with a bit of a tone:  “I could never do your job.”   I understand that it’s usually meant as some type of compliment, but I also wonder if the unspoken question is, ”What kind of person chooses to be around such misery every day?”
There are other professions that involve varying degrees of sadness, stress, overwork, and worry, but they are usually viewed with more admiration.    Oncologists, fire fighters, police officers, NICU nurses…usually these people are admired and honored, and they are often portrayed in the media as noble, self-sacrificing warriors.
Social work is rarely portrayed in the media, but when it is, it is almost universally negative.  Usually, the social worker is the cold and unfeeling.  Oftentimes the “real hero” of the story tries to protect the child in question from “the system” out of fear that the child will get lost or abused even worse if that nasty social worker gets her hands on him.
It is even more negative when there is a high profile child abuse case in the news.  These cases are often the only time that child protection gets any media attention, and the story is usually about whether the system did enough.  At worst, the stories attack and blame the local child protection agency for failing to protect the child.  And because of data privacy laws, the local agency can say nothing more than, “no comment,” which in this day and age is often taken as an admission of guilt.
So back to the question: “How do you do your job?”  I can only speak for myself, but I have learned to accept the reality that sometimes Bad Things happen to kids.   It’s a truth that feels wrong to accept.  For one, adults are supposed to be the protectors of children, and if we accept that child abuse happens, then doesn’t it mean that the adults have failed?   Second, most people who hurt their children don’t look the part.  There are a thousand reasons why a parent abuses a child, but it is rare that a parent hurts his child with no guilt, shame, or remorse.  The vast majority of parents who hurt their children also love those same children dearly.  It is a paradox that is hard to grasp in a black and white world.    
The grimace that I get from people who ask about my job comes from not wanting to think about or hear about child abuse.  And I get that completely.  There are days that I don’t want to think about it either.  In our office, we talk about how nice it would be not to know what we know.  I’m guessing it’s that feeling that leads to the burnout that is common in the profession.
But to be honest, there’s not a lot of turnover at my agency, and that’s because we also laugh a lot—not at our clients’ expense, but we do laugh about almost everything else that comes with our jobs—awkwardly observing urine drug testing, getting chased by mangy dogs, playing cards with hilarious grade schoolers.  So sometimes all we can do is laugh.  And many times, my clients and I laugh together.
So my usual answer to the question that brings a hush over the room is that I have learned to accept, to do the best I can, to be kind, and to laugh.

Kristin Johnson has worked for nearly 20 years at Goodhue County Social Services in Red Wing, MN.  She has recently published a novel based in the child protection system called “unprotected.”  Find more information at www.kristinleejohnson.com.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fall Is Here and So Is The Fall 2012 Issue of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER!

Happy October!  

I am pleased to tell you that the Fall 2012 issue of The New Social Worker magazine is now ready to download! It is available, free of charge, in PDF format, directly from The New Social Worker Web site.

To download the Fall 2012 issue, go to The New Social Worker's download page. Then click on "Download." If the file opens in your Web browser, just click on "Save a Copy" or "File>Save Page as" and save the file to a location on your computer's hard drive.

If you have difficulty with the above link, here is another download link:
Fall 2012 The New Social Worker--direct download link 

Articles from this issue are also available on our Web site (http://www.socialworker.com) in Web format.

Also, don't forget that THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER is now available in a full-color, high quality PRINT edition! If you love the feeling of holding your very own print copy of your magazine in your hands, you can purchase print copies of this issue and previous issues from:

Additionally, you can get a printed, bound volume of all 4 issues from 2011 and/or 2012! You can find these on my Amazon page at:
(The 2012 volume will be available within the next week...2011 is available now.)

Here are some highlights from this issue:

• Student Role Model: Christine Webb (in PDF and print version only)

• Ethics: Clinicians in Court: Thwarting Disclosure

• Field Placement: What I Wish I Had Known: Burnout and Self-Care in Our Social Work Profession

• Homeless Education: Providing Stable Education for Children and Youth in Transition

• Workplace Safety for Social Workers: A Student’s Analysis and Opinion

• Evidence of Time Machines

• Being Who We Are, Every Day, Everywhere (in PDF and print version only)

• Your Social Work Graduate School Application: 14 Tips To Help You Get an Acceptance Letter

• Research: 10 Benefits of Student Participation in Undergraduate Social Work Research

• International: ABCD in Practice: A Practical Lesson From the Field Placement (in PDF and print version only)

• Tech Topics: Red Cross Digital Disaster Volunteers Offer Support Through Social Media/Sidebar: Disaster Distress Helpline

• On Campus (in PDF and print version only)

• Reviews

...and much more!

PLUS…watch our slide show of social work students in action—advocacy style!
As you know, this year is a presidential election year, and I have heard of many social workers and students (like the ones on our Fall 2012 front cover from La Salle University) who have become involved in such activities as voter registration, advocacy regarding voter ID laws, campaigning for candidates, and the like. As social workers, we have ethical responsibilities to clients, colleagues, practice settings, and the broader society. I encourage you to review the NASW Code of Ethics, and then think about which candidates’ positions are in line with our ethical responsibilities to society. Be an advocate by being involved! Don’t forget to cast your vote this November. 

Also, we have posted some “Web-only” articles providing information, insight, and opinion on various policy issues for you to consider as you consider the various candidates on the local, state, and national ballots this November. You can read these articles here:

Perspective on Social Welfare Policy and Retirement Income Security

Why Social Workers Need To Care About Breastfeeding

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If you are looking for a professional social work job, or looking to hire a social worker, be sure to visit our online job site, SocialWorkJobBank.com (http://www.socialworkjobbank.com) today. Employers, please contact me at lindagrobman@socialworker.com with any questions about posting jobs on the site.

Please let your colleagues, classmates, and/or students know about THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER, and the fact that it is a FREE social work resource. Feel free to pass along the download links above, and let them know that they can subscribe free to receive notifications of future issues. If you have received this message as a forwarded message from a friend or colleague, you can subscribe at http://www.socialworker.com/home/menu/Subscribe/