Over the years I have always had a mixed experience working with Families SA. There are times I find working with them a credit to our profession and then there are other times when I find myself bewildered and wondering if we all come from the same profession. I am convinced that some of us certainly attended a completely different University who had a unique and damaging way of presenting Social Work values and principles. Or is it that in the effort to discover what social work means to us we take on a view which is more in keeping with our own skewed view of life? I believe it is the latter because I am at fault here as well. Have I taken on the role of Social Work because it has a certain meaning to me? That I believe in Social Justice, that people should be empowered to have the life they want, that it is helpful not to judge others and that I need to accept the differences of others. There is much more that can be added here which describes what social work means to me but that isn’t all that important to the issue I wish to raise in this post.
I wonder how we become our values regardless of our professional values. That somehow we make those values fit with us that we convince ourselves that we are acting in the best interest of our clients when to others we are doing the opposite. We then have to protect our position or otherwise we are not being true to ourselves and our version of the profession. We enclose ourselves in the bastardised version we begin to believe that this is our sense of truth and that anything outside of this is an anathema to all that we believe in. This becomes the cry not only for the worker but also for all those who agree with them. This builds a cultural belief which when confronted now has a mass of believers who will resist any idea which is counter to their own. Now there are a community of like believers. Welcome to Families SA.
Recently I attended a meeting with Families SA social workers to discuss access arrangements for a client as well as canvas the idea that a GOM 18 order can be amended to include re-unification of the child with her parents. It is difficult for me to describe the emotions I felt when I noticed the social workers berating the client for accommodation offered her recently by Housing SA when they were not able to offer housing when she was in crisis and had her daughter removed. The issue was that the housing was too far away from the carers and that the child had to travel too far from the carers to the parents home. This was their error not the clients.
This is a common story and a theme for many of the social workers I work with. They are stuck in a version of social work which lacks compassion and understanding. Which lacks a sense of creativity and reasonableness which would best fit with the client. There is a rigidity which limits the possibilities and presents “failure” as the only alternative. The challenge is to take the fight to our own profession and give our clients a louder voice so that they are heard amongst the chatter of poorly qualified social workers the and dangerous practices they espouse.