Over the past couple of months I have wondered why I continue working to have people heard and regardless of the knockbacks and rejection. I have often wondered about the toll it takes on my emotional and physical well-being.
What I have come to realise is that if I give up on clients I will be giving up not just on them but on everything I believe in. It is important to be true to your beliefs and to those whom you believe in. Change doesn't come about by idly waiting for it. History tells us that those who have brought about social change have had to fight with determination and an ingrained belief that the fight has value and will bring about the required result.
Change is not about getting what you want. It is about changing ingrained beliefs and systems which have remained often impenetrable. It has been important to resist the negativity one receives from other colleagues and to make a stand for the sake of the client. I think many of us give up because the battle wearies us and we would prefer to live a life which is free of the struggles associated with fighting against a system which conflicts with our own values. I fail to see how so many Social Workers can have the same training but yet fail to understand what it is that we do and how working for our clients is based on a simple but not understand standard of social justice.
Yesterday a client called stating that she was feeling bullied by a worker who objected to her attending access with her brother. There were valid concerns about the brothers history of Domestic Violence but there should never have been any concerns about the brothers violence towards the clients daughter. It is this idea that we must categorize, label and place in a box everyone who has acted badly. I fail to understand how berating my client and causing her to distrust her own judgement regarding the welfare of her child is good social work. It is reasonable for someone to have concerns based on his history but it seems more prudent to explore this with the client rather than destroy the relationship with her. This is an example of the lack of empathy, the refusal to engage appropriately that I find extremely frustrating.
The pervading issue is whether this type of social work needs to be challenged? How do you confront it? Is anyone going to do anything about it anyway? Probably not. However, it needs to be challenged for the sake of the client. This, though, presents another problem. That is the isolation and negative impact it has on the client by other workers. I have mentioned in other posts that if I believe that my intervention is damaging to the client then I would need to withdraw. What I have come to realise though is that these days my very presence can present as a conflict for other workers because of the reputation I have developed. Not that this is my desire. I would rather work collaboratively with other workers. The resistance is not of my making - it is a symptom of their belief system, the belief that they will be made accountable for their actions and their failure to accept responsibility for how they behave. I also believe that many Social Workers view criticism by an "outsider" as intrusive and lacking insight. Perhaps this is true. However, when it comes to social work practice I am as well informed as anyone who values their profession and understands the principles from which we work.
So should we give up. The answer is NO. By giving up we are letting our profession down we are being silenced by unjust beliefs and inequity. We are not demonstrating what it means to be a social worker. Above all we are letting our clients down. We have to remain focussed on what it means to be a social worker and for me it is vital that I maintain my integrity by never giving up on my profession.