We all have an idea of what a social worker is. My favorite is the phrase I hear most often, "Oh, you mean Child Protective Services." Sometimes to save breath, I just nod and agree with them. But I realize I need to stop agreeing and educate my fellow human.
By a simple definition, social work is the profession that focuses on the social welfare, development of individuals, families, groups, communities, and societies. We can work where ever such as courthouses, agencies, health clinics, schools, and government offices. I like to call my profession a jack of all trades. We can be advocates, public speakers, teachers, agent of change, supporter, listener, facilitator, investigators, counselor, and much more. See, we are more than just CPS coming to take children away from their homes. CPS is just an area of social work, but it should not define what we do.
My job title right now is Intensive Care Coordinator. Now, do not confuse that with In-Home Therapist. As an ICC worker, I am preventing children from being placed out of the home due to behavioral or mental challenges. I work with families to strengthen their families and bring together their natural support systems whether that is professional or personal supports. My role is to bring the team together to make one plan that works to what the family pictures their family to be like if things were better.
One of my favorite places or settings to work with children of domestic violence. I love working with children and the impact I can have with them. I learned so much when I was working in that setting and feel like I could return to that setting. Was it hard? How could I go home knowing that someone could hurt a child? I will be honest, it was hard at first, but I had set boundaries and make sure I knew I did everything I can for that day. I had to realize a strength within me to continue and a passion that continued to radiate my through out my body.
This may come as a shocker, but I enjoy my job, and look forward to showing up to work everyday. Others may dread going into work and cannot wait until social workers can and most likely will suffer from burn out. There is stress within this job from traumatic events, long hours of work, compassion fatigue, and lack of self care.
Let's pause for a moment, self-care is not just about taking care of your body and not eating everything in its sight. But, taking care of your mind is part of self-care. Within my few years of being in the field, I have had to learn to separate myself from my work and not worry about things after work. As bad as that sounds, letting my worries about my families I was working with put me in a downward spiral, which was leading me to compassion fatigue. Any profession will preach self-care. But to be honest, I am still learning to take care of myself.
If you cannot take care of yourself, how are you going to be able take care of anyone else?
Back to the subject. Social work receives an undermining stereotype. Although when I think social worker, I think of Lilo and Stitch and Cobra Bubbles. We help those that cannot help themselves and empower them. Although we may sit in meetings, write reports, travel to ends of different cities, and work long hours, we do it for the impact on the lives of others. A social worker's job is never done but can impact. It takes education, passion, and empathy to start the journey of a social worker. We stay true to our ethics and continue to enhance the well-being of others.