Words that provoke an instant response,a pavlovian paralysis, for some people for a minute or two for others for what must seem like a life-time. I uttered those words many times during my career as a social worker. Let me say from the outset that the very nature of statutory social work is negative, practitioners and academics can bump their gums together as much as they like and parrot words such as respect, tolerance, culturally appropriate,strength based interventions till their energizer bunny batteries have worn themselves out a hundred times but that will not change the truth. When the welfare come knocking at your door it is never a completely positive process no matter the outcome. The welfare knock on your door because of a perception that someone,somewhere, somehow has arrived at that there is a deficit in the life of a child. The reasons for this are myriad and involved and let me tell you the biggest mistake many parents made was to turn it into war.
it is a natural response to know the identity of whomever has made a complaint about you, and often it seems that it is natural justice to know the name of your accuser. I would go through the scenarios with parents and give them my best advice which was invariably to put your focus on the present not the past. That their main concern should be in either allaying the concerns that are expressed or engaging and changing the things that need to be changed. Unfortunately most often the advice fell on deaf ears.
One case I remember well was for a family with a long, sorry,sordid, sad list of notifications made about them, some of which were truly stomach turning. The family had evaded social work intervention by various means, intimidation of the social workers, moving often and refusal to engage. After I reviewed the case it was clear that the children needed to be removed their was no other ethical option, there were a few children and I anticipated some trouble and had police back up. On arrival at the house I hadn’t even got in the door when their mum screamed welfare and there were children running everywhere in a pre-rehearsed strategy, it was mayhem, she was screaming, the children were screaming and it was all on. the police had not taken me seriously and had treated my request as a joke had had not provided the back up as requested, that soon changed, the details while making go salacious reading are superfluous in the end.
What happened is the parents both invested their energy into avoidance,,abrogation of blame, and narcissistic denial of any responsibility. They refused to co-operate and participate. A zero sum game for many reasons, they had no bargaining chips to play and had everything to lose. Unfortunately they lost their children went into permanent care, and they carried on with their lives blaming the terrible social worker for their situation. Contrast this with another case. Serious concerns were raised and I did the door knock, the parents were shocked and angry at first but co-operative. It did not take too long to arrive at the truth, the parents invited us to interview their children and readily provided us with people who could attest about their situation and parenting strategies. It did not take long for the truth to be established. They were traumatised by the expereince as much as the other parents initially. There is an inherent imbalance of power .
I have written before in a similar vein however after receiving a comment on one of my blogs I felt the need to write again, I am at rimes consumed by some portent of looming disaster, a crisis of existence, with time dripping away, as I write I hear the relentless tick, tick, tick, tick of the clock signifying the moving on of time. What i want to share is more about moving on than the trauma of dealing with the welfare authorities, but to do so without acknowledging the latter would be disrespectful. After being in a situation which is like the above there comes a time to stop fighting and a time to move on,
Carl Sandburg said “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” In becoming engaged in an all consuming battle to right a perceived wrong one needs to be aware of the cost of that. Whilst having untrue allegations about you being made is extremely hurtful and traumatic, one needs to determine whether you are the monkey or the organ grinder. If the issue consumes you and your time then no matter the outcome of your fight it owns you, count well the cost and be prepared to move on. Sometimes that involves swallowing a dead rat or three but believe me the taste disappears after a time.