Saturday, February 20, 2010

Social Work and those who don't like you

As you may already know from some of my previous posts I am involved in working with families of children who have been removed by Child Protection Services. A couple of days ago I was contacted by a TV station to see if I would be interviewed and offer professional comment that will support their story around the dysfunction of the agency which manages child protection in this state. The thought of putting myself "out there" is when I am confronting individuals or small groups of people is fine but where thousands of people will see me is another thing all together. What will I say? Will it make any sense? Will I look like an idiot? It was predictable that all they wanted to take was very small portion to support their story. Talk about five seconds of fame.

It has been lovely how so many of my friends who happened to not blink and see the segment have commented so politely. Now there is one exception to this and this is the reason for this blog. Many years ago I was asked to work with a client of a friend of mine who worked with Families SA. My friend, a fellow social worker, asked if I would work with this client to help him manage some intimidating behaviour. My experience working with men is that often if the desire is strong enough and the consequences significant we can make some significant changes.

There was certainly no doubt he wanted to have his children returned to him and his partner, but his behaviour was so extreme that he kept on putting people off side. He intimidated and bullied everyone he met. The reception staff at the office were fearful of him. Other workers took restraining orders out against him. Regardless of all of this I did believe that he had some genuine grievances against the department and even though he didn't have the skills to express these and acted badly I still needed to express his concerns in an appropriate way.

He calls me on occasions to let me know of his latest efforts to abuse others and that he is going to make people pay for what they have done to him. He hasn't directed this sort of behaviour at me to this point. Well, when he saw me on television he called me within thirty seconds telling me that I was on television because of the support he had offered me. Hold on, this had nothing to do with him at all. Where was all this crap coming from? After a minute of abuse I hung up. Then he called me again and I didn't answer the call and he left a message which was vile and abusive. He has clearly become worse and more obsessed over the years.

A part from writing about the experience I discovered that I was able to let it go. Within five minutes I was able to enter a group I was running and have one of the best sessions I have had for a long time.

There was a time when I would have been hurt by what he said and the intensity of my feelings would have been almost debilitating, but that didn't happen. Regardless of what he said I was able to move on and not allow someones version of me take over and affect me negatively. What I have been able to realise is that no matter how dedicated and professional we are we are not going to please everyone. With the work I have been doing with clients of Families SA and the conflict this produces I now realise that I am unable to change entrenched views. It interests me that some professionals in the department which this client has been battling for years have a very similar view of the world. They are "right" and to be critiqued is simply a no go zone. Like the abusive client, they are not prepared to view other ways of working which will enhance their interactions with others.

It is sad that some can't find ways to stand back and acknowledge the damage their behaviour does to others.

How nice it is to realise that the power is not to be shared with others but it is something which sits inside me and belongs to no other.

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