Whether it’s fostering or adoption or special guardianship cases, we, ordinary people, have to deal with Social Workers for a shorter or longer period of time and so far I haven’t met anybody who described this time as overly positive.
During the assessment process when the SW is asking all those probing questions and I am honestly revealing my deepest, darkest past, if the SW is any good it’s easy to feel like I am talking to a close friend. This is mistake number 1! She* is NOT your friend, she might be able to sympathise with what you are saying, she might even reassure you that ‘we all make mistakes, but don’t worry it will not affect your chances of being approved’, but pay close attention: she is not revealing any personal information about herself! You become an open book to her and she will make sure she reads all the fine prints twice about your life, but she will not make herself vulnerable to you – which is usually the basis of mutual trust that can develop into a close friendship! It’s so easy to miss the point and look at her as a trusted friend, tell her things she might ‘hear’ differently as a close friend would and it’s quite easy to get into trouble because she often needs to act on things you ‘just casually mentioned to her‘ between dipping two biscuits into the tea in your living room.
As soon as it becomes clear that your future family growth depends on how good she is at assessing you and writing up the report you become very aware of the power she has over you and you reconsider your next words very carefully. I am a fairly confident person, but I got quite uneasy several times when I answered a question and she went ‘hmmm, ok? Tell me why?‘ or when she asked something, I started talking and she started writing. I politely stopped so she could catch up, but she just motioned with her hand for me to carry on without looking up. It filled me with confidence…not.
At the Panel she was our advocate. Her job was to convince the suspecting jury that we are nice people who know what they are signing up for. Once we got approved, we both looked at her as our champion who fought for us and won the battle for us! Then she disappeared…
Is the Social Worker the Enemy?
Following the fiasco with the Life Story Book and me going over the head of the SW to file a complaint with her supervisor obviously put us in the opposite corners. We argued if she had the common sense – since she clearly lacked the training to deliver such a sensitive work, and here lies the problem! For the SW it’s ‘only’ a piece of work they need to do before they can close the case once the adoption order is granted. For us, parents it’s another traumatic event that can (and did) poison our family dynamics and caused massive problems, while she was on holiday.
I spoke to the boys’ therapist who agreed that the children deserve an apology and explanation and most importantly reassurance so she decided to give a script to the SW. I suggested they make it into a letter that the SW can read and give to the boys to keep.
Is the Social Worker our partner?
By definition Social Workers are team players so why is it so hard to look at HER and ME instead of US. We are connected because we both have the same child/ren’s best interest in mind and at heart! When I wrote to her manager I underlined the fact that I do believe she cares for my children and that she didn’t deliberately wanted to hurt them. Lack of training, lack of resources, her managing far too many cases all at once… I do get it. Until very recently I was one of the few people who actually liked working with the Professionals (SW, therapist, School), because I love learning and I welcomed their informed inputs. I didn’t always agree with them of course, but I believe their is wisdom in council therefore I was always proactive in contacting them for advice or guidance.
The therapist gave her this letter to give it to the boys. She picked them up from school and I only saw them just before bedtime routines were to start. Both boys wanted to share the letter with me so they read it out loud. I was quite impressed that how it was worded. Children seemed to be happy with it and agreed with the content. I was thrilled to hear both boys thought it was a good idea to put the Life Story Books into the loft and never to look at it again!
Once the children were out of sight the SW was quick to clarify how unhappy she was about the content of the letter. She complained that she wasn’t part of the preparation, but for the sake of the children she didn’t say anything to them. She went on saying how unfair it was that the therapist wrote the letter and added the SW’s name to it without the SW having any input. I was about to respond with ‘well, you shouldn’t have gone on holiday’, but thank God my wise husband interrupted my less-than-helpful comment and said ‘we really appreciate you doing it despite your reservations, thank you’. Yes, I am glad he was so gracious!
It seems we still have our major differences and she still doesn’t appreciate the fact I tried (still do) to tell her how to do it differently in the future, but we can put those aside and work together as part of the team that has only one goal in mind: the happiness of our children!
That said I am very much looking forward to the day she no longer has to see us…!
PS: Both boys slept well tonight with no bed wetting or night terrors! BOOM! The apology and reassurance was very much needed!
*Both our and the children’s Social Worker are women so I will just use she instead of he/she