Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Reason #93 to get a car:Rainy Walking

Today has to be the most rain I have seen since I moved here...Believe it or not, it's true. See, typically, when it rains here it is a light drizzle, perhaps a steady pour but it doesn't usually last long. Today it rained all day! Our first day back in the office after five days and we were all feeling a little slow to pick it back up. The weather was no help. I had a home visit this afternoon and managed to get there mostly on time but feeling very soggy. Fortunately, it is a very nice family who are seeking supports so they were understanding of my state after waiting for and riding the bus and then walking a few blocks to their house. It's actually not that bad, if the bus shelter is good. I would be a lot happier though if the buses stuck to their timetables so I wouldn't have a panic everytime I had an appointment...

This World...Is It Not About Freedom of Choice?

For those of you back home that have cable, you should check out whether This World airs on BBC America. It is an excellent show that documents various cultural perspectives and various topics. Last night the episode focused on the law passed last year that students can no longer wear any article that may signify their religious faith. This seems, according to the program, to be particularly geared at young ladies who wear a head covering as part of their Islamic faith. I was astounded at the bigoted remarks by educators that these young ladies who chose to wear the covering as a symbol of their personal relationship with God were somehow all destined to become Islamic fundamentalists (a.k.a. terrorists). You would think a country as liberal as France appears to be (particularly with recent events) would never impose such an unjust law. The law has now expanded to hospital staff. Many students have been expelled for refusing to remove their head coverings. One teacher in the program condemned the head covering, using an Iranian writer who refused to wear it because the Iranian government forced all women to. Isn’t that what France is doing? Isn’t what we should all be doing is allowing individuals to express their personal beliefs in their own way? I remember seeing Azir Nafisi speak at Butler University with Em last year and the question of this law was posed to her. She, a woman who left her job in refusal to wear the veil, along with succumbing to many other restraints, commented that it is not the veil we should be against, but the lack of freedom to choose. In the States, I have never been one for prayer in schools. But when I say that, I mean I do not approve of some principal reading a Christian prayer along with the morning announcements, with the general expectation that all the ‘American’ children in that school will associate with that particular religion. But if a group of kids want to get together after school for a prayer group, or a student wants to wear a cross around their neck or a piece of fabric around their head, how does anyone have the right to say they cannot?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Long Easter Weekend

While I have never thought of Easter as an important holiday in my family, I have had a very long weekend to feel truly homesick for the first time. Here, I got "Good Friday," "Easter Monday," and Tuesday (no official title) off. Fortunately, next year that Tuesday and other Tuesdays to follow will be added to my holiday leave to give me 28 days off for the year (and yes, this does not include sick leave!). I did make it out to my new local pub, Robin Hood, where the folks have been very friendly and very supportive to a drunken American girl feeling homesick. Otherwise, I spent the weekend at home relaxing- reading, catching up on Sex & the City, along with great British entertainment such as Peter Kay, The Office, and Bridget Jones (not sure how British she would be, really). I had a nice, somewhat British Easter dinner on Sunday- the first time I have really cooked an extensive meal in my flat...Because, as some of you know, I prefer to cook extensive meals for others, while mumbling curses under my breath. Tomorrow, I head back to work and I am feeling ready to do so. Too much time reflecting can be bad for a single woman's health living alone in a foreign place. In retrospect, I would have saved the money I spent in Liverpool to travel this weekend. But, I didn't and was therefore stuck here awaiting payday on the 31st. I did spend some time planning ahead and making lists, though (as I love to do), and plan to start taking weekend trips on a more regular basis...Starting with a trip to London with Mom and Dad at the end of April!

Monday, March 21, 2005

My Trip to Liverpool

I went to Liverpool with a ticket to see Ani Difranco. The ticket was really just a catalyst to get me out of the Black Country and start exploring. I heard mixed reviews on Liverpool before I went, but I found it to be a lovely city. Plus, I got familiarized with the train systems and built my comfort level for future weekend breaks. Here are quite a few pictures from my weekend.

The Pier Head and Three Graces. These buildings are steeped in the history of Liverpool's commerce and maritime involvement.

Walk along the Mersey River. A very picturesque walk along old stone walkways. This walk will lead you to the ferry rides along the river, Tate Liverpool, Maritime Museum, Museum of Liverpool, and The Albert Dock with shops, restaurants and the Beatles Story.

The Albert Dock. This is a old trading dock dating back to 1846 has now been remodeled to house restaurants and shops. A nice place to eat outside and have a drink, should there be good weather.

Historical Loading Docks. These same docks were used in the slave trade in the late 1700's. It was a bit strange to read the history of what occurred along those docks as I walked along the same stones.

Entrance to Chinatown.

Anglican Cathedral. This cathedral was amazing from the outside, but I did not see the inside. This is also where John Lennon's memorial service was held.

Another view of the cathedral.

Housing off Hope Street on my walk to Liverpool University. This picture does not do it justice. This was a very nice area that definitely had the feel similar to other neighborhoods surrounding universities. There was interesting restaurants and street art that signified a creative area.

Some art along Hope Street. These suitcases were sculpted and appear to be signed by various famous people from Liverpool, including Paul McCartney. Likely, they were not signed by the actual person but I thought it was interesting, so randomly placed.

My Magical Mystery Tour. This is the bus we went on to tour the homes and "lives" of Paul, John, George and Ringo.

The Empress Pub. This is the pub Ringo's mother worked in. They lived just around the corner from the pub for a whole 15 shillings a week (around 25p).

This was George's home from birth to 6 years old. Clearly, there is a new family in the home-no relation.

A church near the end of Penny Lane in which Paul was a choir boy.

Paul's childhood home into early adulthood. It is now recreated on the inside to resemble the home as it was in the 50's. I believe Eddie, that's the tour guide to the left, said Paul and John wrote over 100 songs in this home.

The bus stop where Paul awaited the bus to go to school...and where he met George (they met while on the bus going to school).

John's home. The blue plaque is in respect to John. They are placed on the homes of anyone famous who has been dead for 20 years. It seemed a bit of a strange honor that you have to be dead 20 years first....

Entrance to Strawberry Fields. This is actually a children's home. John's aunt lived near here and he would go as a child to hear bands being played at the home. He and Yoko had the home rebuilt in the early 70's so that children went from sharing rooms among multiple children to having their own room. It is now on the verge of closing in May of this year.

The Cavern Pub. This is the pub across from the Cavern where The Beatles played. It is hard to see in the picture but each brick surrounding the door has a name of various artists that have played here.

My final stop. The actual Cavern where the Beatles, among many other remarkable artists played. It was a friendly pub, although not too crowded because there was a football match on in Liverpool. There was a live band playing and they were taping for something so I sat in on that, had a few pints, and made it back to the train to head home. It was a great trip! Next time though I think I would take at least three days so I am not travelling the majority of the time and have at least one full day to enjoy the surroundings.
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Thursday, March 17, 2005

My First Case Conference

When a Section 47 Child Protection Inquiry is completed, It is decided via a Strategy Discussion as to whether the case will be taken to initial conference. This conference includes the family involved in the case, professionals such as health providers and educational providers, the Reviewing officer-who chairs the conference, and myself and my team manager. This meeting is meant to be an opportunity for all present to assess the details of the situation and decide whether or not the child(ren) will be placed on the Child Protection Register. In addition to the health advisor, head teacher and social worker, FPU (Family Protection Unit) is also invited and there is a representative from Child Protection Review and our legal department. The reviewing officer chairs the conference; this person is someone who is meant to have a great deal of experience in the field and is the mediator of the process. The conference today concerned a separated couple who have had a very acrimonious split. The allegation was one of physical abuse concerning the father and the son, but my concerns were strongly within the clear emotional effect this tumultuous relationship has had on the kids. I, as you can imagine began to feel very caught in the middle of divorce proceedings it shouldn't be my role to engage in. But the allegations that brought us to conference brought to the forefront all sorts of needs that clearly needed to be addressed. Typically, you can expect a case conference to last about an hour- this one lasted 2.5 hours. Definitely complicated and interesting for my first one...I was incredibly nervous but covered what I needed to and had the knowledge and support of my Team Manager to chip in. The children were registered under the category of Emotional Abuse (other categories are Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse and Neglect). From here, a Core Group Meeting will be scheduled in which the primary professional involved will meet with the family to compose the Child Protection Plan, which will address any needs the children and parents have. Once that is completed and all my assessments and paperwork are done, I can pass it over to the Care Management Team!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

A few pictures of Stourbridge

This is the High Street in Stourbridge; where I spend many a Saturday shopping trip.

Again, the High Street. To your left is the Talbott Hotel which has a nice cafe I have patronized a few times.

This is Lower High Street, with the famous clock in view (although I am not sure exactly why it is famous, it's just really old). The brick paved area is closed off to drivers and is where the farmers' market is twice a month.

This is the High Street from the other direction.

And around the bend...

Here is a French Deli and Cafe that I love. The deli is especially friendly; they always call you dear and the coffee and danishes are superb. The cafe also has excellent food and evil desserts.
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A tour of the flat!

Hello! Welcome to my flat!

This is the street I live on. My flat is to the left.

My front door at Flat 6.

Come on in!

Here is the entrance with the "lounge" on the right. The "office" area and remaining rooms are to the left.

The lounge

A larger view of the lounge

The office area and entrance to kitchen and bedroom

The "office"

The kitchen (notice the clothes washer next to the sink)

The bedroom; unfortunately my least favorite area of the flat but it's been much better since Mom sent comfy bedding from home.

My shower. I wanted to show just how small it is but the perspecive of this photo does not give it justice. The whole bathroom is reasonably small so it was hard to capture. I have a pull cord I yank each morning so I can have hot water in my shower. All of my taps are cold water unless I decide to run the boiler. It uses so much electricity though I usually just boil a little in the kettle when I need it for dishes, etc.

So there you have it. Now that I feel like I gave a first grade show-and-tell presentation, you have seen where I live! I am now off to Stourbridge for lunch and shopping. As they say in the Black Country, Tara!
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A random road pic

This is Ambelcote High Street. The street just to the right is King Williams, the same road I had put a pic up of a while back. If you look ahead almost in the middle is the Red Cone, the historical glass factory. To the left the large building is a crystal glass factory. My office is to the right just out of view.
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Friday, March 11, 2005

Red Nose Day

Today is Red Nose Day in the UK. This is part of a large campaign by Comic Relief to raise money to support causes within the UK and in Africa. I am not going to ramble about my feelings; those who know me know of my unexplained passion for Africa. Hopefully most of you are at least aware of some of the issues surrounding fair trade and the AIDS epidemic that is not only eating up everything good that is Africa, but is spreading rapidly among the poorest countries in throughout Asia and South America as well. The facts are frightening, and it can be changed if the US and EU governments start to act on the rhetoric they continuously deliver. These changes could mean not only positive economic development but health care that is so often denied could finally be made more available for the millions of people affected by HIV/AIDS. Okay, I am getting on that rant so please just take the time to check out Make Poverty History and Oxfam's websites to learn a bit more.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

There is a world outside Dudley

It is called Wolverhampton. My colleague and friend Jackie took me into Wolverhampton tonight and dropped my off in the town centre. I was going in order to catch Erin McKeown at Wulfrun Hall. I was hoping to get tickets for Bright Eyes on Sunday as well, but it was unfortunately sold out. Jackie, excellent tour guide that she is, pointed out various villages as we drove to Wolverhampton and guided me through what lies within the main areas surrounding the town centre. (Wolverhampton is a 20-30 minute drive from where I currently live and work.) Jackie pointed out where I needed to go for the cash machine, restaurants, and the bus station for when I headed home and then was on her merry way. I had a few hours before the concert so I found a wine bar called Cuba something with pictures resembling Che Guevara but they were portrayed in an Andy Warhol-ish sort of way that seemed completely wrong if they were meant to be him. Eating alone, I tend to eat fast. I have no one to talk to so I tend to focus soley on the food in front of me. (If I had a book with me I perhaps would have lingered.) I found a pub after dinner and went in for a pint (mmm-John Smiths Bitter). This pub had an interesting gothic style to it (I am not talking architechture here). My table at which I sat was the lid of a coffin. Across from me against the wall was a large iron throne with dragon heads on the arms, goat legs, and a mini evil looking satyr crouched on the top crest of the chair. The walls were of course bright red, the lighting dark and various other attempts at satanical type paraphernalia were throughout the pub. The funny bit of it all is that it was just a regular pub that happened to have atypical decor. The crowd was the same, the vibe was the same as just about any other pub.I thought of a few friends though who would have made that experience much more entertaining. I then roamed the streets of Wolverhampton until the doors opened at Wulfrun for the show. In a few words, compared to where I currently live, it is cleaner, more modern and more diverse. There is a University in Wolverhampton so I think this may play some role in that. But in general, it was more like a little city than a large village. It is where I imagined I'd be living. Don't get me wrong, I like where I live. While walking through Wolverhampton, though, I thought, "As soon as my lease is up in July, I am moving here." But, upon further reflection I am not sure how realistic it is in terms of time and finances. I think I have Jackie on board, too. She is already looking at flats for me! Regardless, it is definitely somewhere I will be visiting often. There is a lot of live music in Wolverhampton playing among the Wulfrun and the Civic so I know I'll be there plenty for good shows. Speaking of good shows, Erin McKeown was once again energizing and captivating. I had the opportunity to meet her and get her autograph and she was very gracious. She was actually opening for Josh Rouse, who I think I have heard of but wasn't sure who he was. Once I heard his music a few songs sounded familiar. I ended up staying for his show as well; a little poppy but talented and entertaining. Since I cannot be in the presence of Colin Oberst on Sunday, I believe the money that would have gone to a ticket will have to now go to a CD purchase (Surprise! Surprise!).

Monday, March 07, 2005

Not your ordinary gym

I joined a gym a month after I arrived in hopes to get myself in shape and maybe even meet a few new people. The gym I joined, Next Generation, is a full leisure centre complete with gym, classes, two pools, sauna, sports shop, pool table, cinema, spa facilities and hotel and function rooms! Unfortunately, despite all it's splendor tonight was the first night I have been to workout in about two weeks. Hopefully, I will begin to get there more as I am starving for more social interaction (just to be in the presence of other people). I made it out Friday night with some friends from work and had too much fun. But aside from that I continue to stay inside my little flat and have felt especially isolated the last week or so. It goes back to the ease I miss; the ease of knowing where to go for things, knowing of one bar were you could stop in and have a beer and the bartendar knows you or there is someone to chat to. In order to start getting out more, in addition to the gym, I have decided it is time to get creative. So, I have looked into some volunteering opportunities that will give me more direct contact with people in need than the job seems to (always the paperwork! you social workers know how it is...) and I am looking into joining a rambling group and a mountain climbing group. Of course, I have never in my life climbed a mountain but I have done a bit of rock climbing and it's something I have always been curious to learn, so what the hell! Plus, ventures to attempt and get a car are in the works so I will be driving on the left side of the road very soon!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

A day on Duty

One of the aspects of my job here is Duty shifts. Atypical of most of the other teams throughout the borough we are a split site, so we work Duty out of the main office that is known to the public. (My desk is actually located at a secret office that clients do not typically know is there.) The duty shifts cover any new referrals that come in, walk-ins, crises, and immediate child protection needs. We all work duty on a monthly rotar so I will be on duty 1-2x per week. Now, here is the interesting component to my job and the way the Assessment team is set up. We do not just get referrals concerning child abuse or neglect, we get anything and everything involving children and families. This could be the mother who calls in because she cannot control her son's unruly behavior to the single dad that needs support caring for his daughter who was learning disabilities. We work in an office with two Admin support staff, Sue and Becky. These ladies are wonderful and I love working with them. They are incredibly helpful and a big piece of the puzzle...I would be lost without them. I feel guilty so often because they help so much with administrative tasks I am used to having to do by myself. The calls typically come to them first and then will be forwarded to the Duty worker. I am not yet working Duty on my own, but "co-working" it. I think this is another reason why I like working duty so much...It is much more social than being at the office, it seems (especially with certain colleagues that tend to be more social and fun). While it can get really chaotic, there is also a comfortable air about being at the duty office that I don't quite get as much when I am at the other office. Anyways, we take the calls in typically as contacts unless there is something of concern then we may write it as a referral. It goes to the Duty Manager for review and if it is to be allocated it will go back to Sue or Becky to set up the allocation. We will often get walk-ins or set up office visits for some referrals to gather more detail and see if we can offer further support. I have learned the most on Duty because you get a bit of everything so it is helping me to learn the lingo, what resources are available in the communities, and how certain issues would be dealt with-legally and in general professionally. Really, it could be compared to YES, I think, because all that may be needed is some essential crisis intervention or it may need to be taken further. So, that's where it all starts here in the process of Social Services, the wonderful world of Duty. Stay tuned for more on Social Work in Dudley.


The "secret" office
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