Walking for a while in the shoes of a Social Worker…

Life moves on, usually with a pace that remains unchanged. Individually, we may sense a thrust that suggests we are out of control. The mind races; the heart beats wildly; the seasons seem rushed.

I create my own panic these days. Aside from the slowly, inevitable winding down of my body and brain, I lived a measured life. Any stress is of my own making.

Gary Mason’s column in the Friday, January 15th 2016 Globe and Mail, While most of us sleep, social workers are tackling real tragedy, in real time easily took me back to an earlier time when I worked, I served as a Child Protection Social Worker for the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

I think he captures well the dark ending drive of nighttime and daytime demands, especially placement issues, which befall social workers and the youngsters in their charge.

In my own novel on child protection, Like a Child to Home, I touch frequently on the unending complexity of placement. At one point, in Chapter 14, I reference one ward who is placed back in the same hotel she absconded from 2 years earlier.

“She was moderately compliant now that her irritating companion had skedaddled. I was ill at ease about driving anywhere with her. I explained my reservations to the cops. It was a slow night. They said they would drive her. A half hour later, we rendezvoused at the same hotel she had hit the road from two years prior. One of the child care workers who had been looking after her then was still around, and we had requested her. After a few informational exchanges, I left Angie in her keeper’s hands, thanked the cops for above-and-beyond work, and went home. “

My novel was ripped from the experiences I had in a career that primarily spanned the years 1978-2002. The extract above references an incident in the mid to late 1980’s. Placing that particular youth in a hotel with child care support, while not standard operating procedure, was a sensible decision.

I like what Gary Mason has to say. I think his observations reflect the joint report just released by the Ministry and the Children’s Representative. And when he says “Rarely do we attempt to understand the often complex underlying factors that lead to some of the difficult decisions that social workers and others have to make in incredibly trying conditions,” I would hope people pay heed.

There is room for much criticism of MCFD. But it needs to be informed criticism. This requires that MCFD be more forthcoming, not about private information, but about the issues. We’ll see if there is a defrosting of responses to future tragedies.


  • Ty Bill.
    integrity, is a word I associate with you.

  • In this arena, I can’t imagine the decisions are ever black and white. It would be nice, however, if the first benefit of the doubt is given to the men and woman on the ground who deal with these complexities every day, rather than the Monday morning quarter-backs.

  • Bill I have not done that work since 1992 but I too remember the decisions made in the dead of night looking into the eyes of kids I needed to some ensure were kept safe and the pleading of a parent who just wanted one more chance to turn things around. I was 31 and old in comparison to many of my colleagues. You are a wise man full of integrity. Thanks for this

  • All of your comments are much appreciated. Thanks.

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