“Why people hate social workers…”

In an attempt to stay out of the sizzling sun the other day, I found myself engaged in a rare bit of housecleaning. As I was sorting through a couple of ragged old wallets, mostly full of ancient video rental cards from outlets far away and likely out of business, I found a photo given me by a young client almost twenty years ago. It is one of those small school photos we have all likely seen. Christy (not her real name, of course) has a big grin and looks for all the world like she could never have a problem. On the back, she wrote: “To Bill, Thanks for being a great social worker. I’m really glad you’re here to listen to me. You’ve helped me a lot.  P.S. I can’t understand why people hate social workers….”

As I recall, Christy had had very little experience with social workers at the time. Her judgement of what makes a good social worker may have been based on limited information (my involvement as her worker). The reason I probably kept the photo, other than simply forgetting that it was there which is not beyond the pale, was her declaration that she “can’t understand why people hate social workers.”  I can’t understand it either. We are a great profession.  Of course, Christy probably knew of friends whose secret lives had come to the attention of child welfare social workers and were engaged in some painful assessment. At some point, whatever little control her friends or their families had may have been supplanted by the absolute need for social workers to consider the best interests of the child.

Another reason why people may “hate social workers” is that the work we do (in my case, did) is little understood.  We often get involved in the lives of people when they are most vulnerable. We aren’t the only profession that enters the lives of people at vulnerable times but often our injection impacts the sanctity of family life (sometimes a dark and abusive sanctity) and if we are doing our job properly, disruption (or worse) may occur.

All around the world, child welfare social work is a maze of activity. The profession is constantly being reassessed. It is ever under the gun. Things can so easily go off the rails in the world of child protection. British Columbia has had a wealthy of inquiries and assessments of the work of social workers. Great Britain, for example, is currently going through a review of work decades old. It is all quite fascinating and unending.

As I prepare to read at the 2014 edition of the Denman Island Readers Writers Festival from a small section of my new novel in process, Drawn towards the Sun, a prequel to my first publication, a work that tells more of the story of my protagonist, Wally Rose,   I am strongly aware of my two principal reasons for writing:

  • I want to create something unique and interesting;
  • I want to render my vision of what social workers do, how they go about their job.  (I admit that I only touch on a small fragment of the world of child welfare)

I do not want to understate the gratitude I feel for the opportunity as a local writer to read at the Denman Festival. I am thankful not only for the opportunity to read from my new work but to continue to get the word out about Like a Child to Home.


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